Weeks 3 & 4 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Weeks 3 & 4 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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We came, we saw, and for 4 wonderful months, we lived.

To say that the 4 months we have spent travelling through Southeast Asia has gone fast would be a lie. To say that we have spent it in the way that most travellers do would also be a lie. We haven’t. We have spent our time travelling in exactly the way that we like to travel, at the pace we like to travel at, no more and no less. So ultimately for us it hasn’t gone quickly – it’s gone just as quick as we expected in the time that we have had, but we have had lots of amazing experiences (and challenges) along the way and many a fond memory of specific places and situations both good and bad that will keep us smiling for a long time to come!

It was never our intention to be backpackers. The backpacker lifestyle (though there’s certainly nothing wrong with it) is not the lifestyle for us, but it seems that from some  people’s perspectives, if your not “roughing it” then you haven’t had the full travel experience. Well I disagree.

Travel doesn’t have to be done on the cheap or spent at the lowliest of places. Travel can and should be luxurious! Afterall, travelling isn’t about how many places you can cram into your time, or about collating meaningless bucketlist locations to brag about on Instagram, it’s about experiencing different places, fully immersing yourself in the country, culture and customs you visit and seeing the world anew. And what better way to do that then by spending an extended amount of time in each destination?

In our 4 chosen locations (Ubud in Bali, Canggu in Bali, Koh Samui in Thailand and Chiang Mai in Thailand), we got to live alongside the locals whilst not foregoing the luxury’s that are important to us such as staying in a decent standard of accomodation, and going to nice restaurants and spa’s. We also did not want to have to keep packing and repacking all the time and as I do not travel light it was out of the question to move anymore frequently then we did.

All in all, when you factor in the 2 shambolic places we stayed at in Bali (Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin and the Akmani) where we left both promptly, we stayed in 6 different locations overall in our travels. Travelling to 6 places in 4 months meant packing and unpacking 12 times! 12 times! There is no way that I would want to pack and unpack anymore times then that.

 I think that what was most refreshing about our time spent away was that we were operating from our own clock. There was no alarms to be set or anywhere in particular to be. We arose each day to decide what we wanted to do and where we wanted to be  and found that mostly, even though we had the luxury of spending every waking hour on the beach topping up our tans, we didn’t necessarily want to. We found that even though we could have spent our time experiencing every possible thing that Indonesia and Thailand had to offer, we did not want to. The touristy things that we did do we considered carefully before doing them, weighing up whether these experiences were unique to that country or not.

So overall we have had a pretty varied experience in each place – we spent some days lazing about on the beach, some days at home, some days travelling, some days in cafe’s, some days shopping, some days getting pampered. Spending so much time in each location afforded us the luxury of doing things at our own pace and it was a very delicious indulgence indeed.

Songthaew Life

Getting a Songthaew here is easy. And since we live very centrally it’s even easier – you just wave them down as you would a black taxi on the street. Granted, you do sometimes have to negotiate the price with the driver as occasionally (especially late at night), they try to charge you more then 80 p a ride, and even though you know that what they’re charging is bloody cheap you still don’t want to pay more when you know that 80 p is the standard rate. But these Songthaews are surprisingly endearing as each one is unique. The drivers “pimp them up” to reflect their individual style so sometimes you will get ones that are decorated with Thai ribbons hanging from the roof, sometimes you will get decorative patterned seats to sit on, some have an interesting interior colour scheme and some even have flashing disco lights installed in them to get the party started!

But the Songthaews have competition on the road, as there are also Tuk Tuks, which are basically converted scooters that have the added capacity to take passengers in the back. I call the Tuk Tuks the “Pimp Mobiles”. They each only take two passengers so you never have to share your ride. All of them are decorated so that they are noticed wherever they go, whether that’s with a kick ass sound system, flashing lights, bells and whistles, blankets and furr interiors – you name it, they have it. And with their flamboyance they have the driver to match.

Unlike the Songthaews, which are mostly driven by the older generation, the Tuk Tuks are mostly driven by younger guys, who have better English, know more of the up and coming hangouts and are far more cheeky. The Tuk Tuks also go faster then the Songthaews so if you’re going somewhere in a hurry then they are perfect, but both of the sides are open and the temperature in Chiang Mai drops at night so it can get quite chilly when you’re driving through the city at pimp mobile speed. Also, they are more expensive then the Songthaews so most people try to avoid using them. This makes the drivers of the Tuk Tuks naturally a little more aggressive as they have to fight to get people to pay the measly 40 p more to ride with them!

There are hardly any pavements here and no traffic signals for pedestrians whatsoever. It is becoming a bit of a challenge trying to cross a 6 way junction with no green man for pedestrians and tbh I’m very surprised that I haven’t witnessed a fatal accident in the time that we have been here. It is bloody dangerous and also extremely polluted in Chiang Mai. Never mind Indonesia and volcanic ash, these people are suffering from petrol fumes! I’m sure that my lungs have noticed the difference since arriving here.

Home Alone 

Josh’s friend is also in Chiang Mai at a Kung Fu Training Retreat in the mountains. If it sounds ideal then perhaps you need know that as part of his training which incorporates not just the practical side of Kung Fu but also the philosophical side too, he wakes up at 4:00 am each day to begin his training. There is of course no drinking or smoking allowed (and he does both with regularity when he’s back home), instead, he is required to meditate daily. The Kung Fu Master is originally from England but has been living in Thailand for over 30 years and has won various Kung Fu Awards and was chosen by the previous master for his skills so clearly this is no joke business. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that Josh’s friend had planned to attend the retreat for a month as I knew that he partied pretty hard. He contacted Josh and said that he was going to be staying in Nimman for a night before he went onto Phuket to meet his girlfriend who was flying out from the Isle of Man (where they both live) to join him, and then he was going onwards alone to Japan and China (now THAT I was envious of!).

Josh organised to meet him one night for dinner and I didn’t particularly fancy being a third wheel so the plan was for me to eat early and then stay at home for the rest of the evening whilst he met up with his mate. Staying home was my preference as we usually went out for dinner each night so I figured it would be a welcome change, but it was also a necessity as we only had one key fob to get into our apartment and indeed our whole building as for some strange reason, the woman who rented us the apartment didn’t think it necessary to give us 2 key fobs despite her knowing that there was two of us staying there. And she didn’t even live in the country! Ridiculous.

The security in our apartment block was intense as it was one of the nicest developments in one of the nicest areas: Nimmanhaemin. This meant that we needed the one key fob we had between us to access the lifts, to get up to the floors and to get into our apartment. In reverse, this meant that you couldn’t enter or even leave the apartment without it, therefore I was essentially “banged up abroad” whilst Josh was out socialising.

Before Josh went out to meet his friend I went to a local pizzeria which I had never tried before to pick up a pizza to take home with me. The pizzeria we had been to before in Chiang Mai, which had come so highly rated, turned out to be average and after having such exceptional pizza in both Bali (Spaccanopoli) and Koh Samui (Coco Tam’s) respectively, I did not wish to eat an average pizza. So I thought I’d try this other place out. The pizza, as with everything else in Chiang Mai, was cheap beyond belief. £3 for a pizza! Just unbelievable. And even though it wasn’t as good as the others I’d had – it was at least better then the other pizza I had had in Chiang Mai and for £3 I really could not complain. I didn’t really understand how these people (the owner was Italian) could be operating a business – a bricks and mortar retail store selling their pizza’s at just £3 a piece but this was the reality living in a place such as this!  

After Josh left to go and meet his friend (and I told him to film his friend doing his newly learned Kung Fu moves!), I chilled at home watching Netflix. Yes, Netflix and Chilling, lol, but alone. About an hour later my phone started ringing – it was Josh saying that he had just got to the hotel where his friend was staying but that when he text his friend to tell him that he was waiting downstairs in reception he text him back saying that he had the wrong day. They were supposed to be meeting up tomorrow! Well he couldn’t believe it and neither could I. How could he have got the day wrong for goodness sake?

Anyway there was nothing that could be done about it now. But it dawned on me that him getting the wrong day also meant that I would have to do the home alone thing again the following night because I didn’t have a key fob to get in or out!

What kind of foolishness is this??

The next day came and I went back to the same pizzeria (because I really couldn’t be arsed to find anywhere else) and the Italian man there was very happy to see me (likely because he assumed that I must like the pizza so much to be back the following day!) so I had to lie to him and tell him that the pizza was really good. He had no idea that I went there out of necessity because I knew that I was soon going to be “banged up abroad!”

When Josh left I done the same thing that I done the night before – Netflix and Chilled and thankfully he didn’t call me an hour later telling me that he had the wrong day. But it did occur to me as I was sitting there in the comfort of my cosy little home that due to this ridiculous policy of needing a key fob to get in and out of the building and not seeing any fire escape on our floor (though I’m sure there must have been one), had there been an actual fire in the block, I would have been burnt to a frazzle because I couldn’t actually get out!!

Not a Chiang Mai Grenfell

I didn’t want to perish in our glamorous but bijou apartment in Chiang Mai. And I most certainly could not read any of the fire documents which were all written in Chinese. I hadn’t seen any fire escape notifications and was completely unaware of what to do in the event of a fire or indeed how to exit the building at all. I was essentially a sitting duck.

When I had heard about the Grenfell fire in London a few months before I had been utterly horrified and angry. I seriously could not believe that something as horrendous as this could have happened and I was furious to think of it possibly being premeditated by anyone, let alone a government conspiracy. Do I think anyone would do such a thing? you ask. The answer is yes, though please do not ask me who done it or why because I’m not a detective but where there is motive, there is a criminal and what better one then one who can make money out of tragedy? Afterall, most of the poor people who lost their lives in that fire were not valued members of society. They were just poor people. Tis sad but true. 

Anyway, I do not wish to dwell on such painful things, it’s just that it did occur to me, whilst I was “banged up abroad” looking out to the mountains ahead and the mist filled sky, that if the building were to go up in flames then perhaps I would too, because there was nothing in this small apartment to throw out of it in order to break my fall if I jumped from the balcony, nothing apart from our mattress that was, and we all know about my mattress don’t we..

Hard as a Rock

I have never in all my days slept on a mattress so hard. It takes my breath away, both literally and figuratively to believe that such a hard mattress exists. Because this thing is so hard that we wake up every morning winded from almost having our ribcages crushed under the magnetic weight of it. Aching from the pain of how hard it is and with a backache because it is so very uncomfortable. So when I think about throwing out the mattress in the event of a Grenfell fire in Chiang Mai not only am I sceptical that I will even have the strength to lift this 50 tonne mattress out of the apartment onto the ground but I also very much doubt that I would survive the jump as mattresses are supposed to be firm but soft but this one was firm and hard. VERY HARD. I think that if I jumped onto this mattress it would literally break my legs. A terrible thought indeed.

Birkenstock Awe

I’m so glad that Josh managed to convince me to buy a pair of Birkenstocks. They have been absolute lifesavers during my travels. I never thought that I would wear a pair of shoes so frequently but he was right when he said that once I got into them, I would never want to come out of them! They are unbelievably comfortable and have got even more comfortable as time has gone on. German Engineering has allowed me to walk the streets of Bali and Thailand without my feet aching at any point in time which I think is incredible. Unfortunately for me, the luxury of wearing such comfortable shoes does not extend to England as it’s far too cold to wear them there but if it wasn’t, or they had a closed toe version that actually looked good (they don’t), then believe me I would be wearing them there too. Highly recommended if you go travelling and want your feet intact!

The Miserable Pork Balls seller

They are crazy for Pork Balls over here. Pork Balls are round bits of Pork (like sausage meat), on a stick that they fry for you on the roadside by the boat load. I don’t know what it is about Asians and pork but they absolutely love it. I guess the same could be said for Caribbeans and chicken and Africans and fish but Pork is the number 1 seller here and Pork Balls are King. You can get them for 30 baht (around 70 p) from the street sellers and they seem to do very good business (especially with the Chinese). We saw this Pork Balls seller outside Dom’s, getting prepared for his Pork Balls debut that evening, and he looked bloody miserable. I couldn’t work out what had happened to this guy for him to be so miserable looking but as people walked by glancing occasionally over at his balls he seemed to get angrier and angrier and by the time I dared to look over at him he was positively furious. I was unsure as to who would DARE to buy a Pork Ball from him when he was glaring at everyone in his line of vision. The man looked so vex it was as if he wanted to chop everyone in their neck back. He was bloody terrifying.

Thankfully for us, we weren’t in the market for Pork Balls, whether they were being sold on the roadside or elsewhere, so we didn’t have to go anywhere near him.

Favola

We went to Favola for dinner which is an Italian restaurant inside the Le Meridian hotel in the centre of the Old Town. I was desperate to find somewhere, an actual restaurant, where we could have a nice meal. I was fed up of this casual eating thing. I was seeking some glamour!

Unlike Bali and Koh Samui, which had glamour in abundance, Chiang Mai seems decidedly lacking where fine dining restaurants were concerned. People seem to like crowding the streets, sitting outside decidedly average looking restaurants or eating from sellers dishing out sticks of meat from food vans on the extremely polluted roadside. But that was not my thing at all. All I wanted was to find a restaurant, with nice decor, good service and tasty food in Chiang Mai. Favola looked to me to fit the bill, though from the pictures I’d seen of it online, it still didn’t look as nice as some of the other places we’d been to. But the food was rated highly which was promising.

When we arrived at Le Meredian I immediately saw a cockroach scurrying past the entrance and I hoped and prayed that this wasn’t a sign of things to come.  

The cockroach turned out to be just an unfortunate reality of living in a hot country. It thankfully wasn’t a reflection of the shoddiness that lied within because Le Meredian was actually rather glamorous inside. A typical large chain hotel, but a nice one nonetheless, the smell that was wafting out of the vents and into my nose was a delight. The staff, who were very friendly, escorted us personally up to the restaurant, which we had made a reservation for, but when we arrived we could clearly see that we needn’t have bothered, for it was almost completely empty, aside from a couple sitting in the corner and a big table of Chinese people who as time went on, and they got drunker,  became increasingly louder.

Clearly, street food is all the rage here and all the fancy restaurants stay empty! But the restaurant itself was lovely. The decor was suitably glam, with neutral tones, an open kitchen where you could watch the chefs preparing your food, beautiful lighting, tasteful furniture and a huge wine cabinet behind the Chinese contingency who were getting so loud I could scarcely hear our waiter repeat back our orders.

The food however turned out to be a success. We both ordered a risotto to share as our starter which was delicious, and then I had an artichoke ravioli dish in a tomato sauce and Josh had seabass, both of which were richly flavoured and well cooked.  

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“Marble” chocolates at Favola 

I was determined to get gifts for people to commemorate this once in a lifetime experience travelling around southeast Asia and we were best placed to get some after dinner as the Old Town Night Market was on every evening from around 16:00 until 23:00 and they sold everything under the sun. After traipsing around for a couple of hours we returned home knackered but had managed to buy a gift for almost everyone in our families plus a few extra treats for ourselves. Josh really liked the look of the “Karen Hilltribe” trousers, and judging by the amount of sellers who were selling them it look like it was a very popular choice. Even more popular then those though, were the baggy elephant pants and almost every tourist in Northern Thailand had picked up a pair of those alas even though we liked elephants we did not like the trousers with them on them. They looked like pajama’s. 

But I got myself a few pairs of these roomy, culotte looking trousers and Josh got about 3 pairs of the Hilltribe versions which really suited him. They are too odd looking and too summery to wear in England but if we have a good summer then perhaps they will make an apperance afterall!

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Josh and I wearing our Hilltribe trousers

We went back to Fern Forest for one last time before we left Chiang Mai to attend their Sunday Jazz event. Every Sunday, they have a live jazz band playing in the gardens and since Fern Forest had become our favourite place in Chiang Mai we decided that we just had to check it out. When we got there we were immediately greeted by our favourite waitress, who always remembered us and made sure she reserved us the best seats and was always very sweet and kind to us. Since alot of the time we went there to work she always asked us if the wifi was okay and if it was a little iffy then she would disappear to go and fix it for us. She was very attentive to us. When we arrived as we suspected it was packed but we managed to find some good seats, close to the area where the band would be playing. The only problem was that it was very very hot that day and eventually, once I could feel the energy draining from my body, and recalling the time when I fainted in a restaurant in Kingston from heat stroke, we decided to ask our waitress if we could move upstairs instead.

By then the band had already started playing, and they were pretty good but not even they could keep me there any longer. We went upstairs to a large, bright and airy dining room with french doors that overlooked the garden and the jazz band below. Utterly stunning in typical colonial style, the dining room was decorated in white and had marble tables, huge windows letting the light stream through from all angles, a big flower centrepiece, huge chandelier and floor length curtains. It was both glamorous and tranquil, and the beauty was that similarly to Clear Cafe in Bali, they didn’t allow anyone to wear shoes in that part of the restaurant so it felt very much like you were in someone’s elegant home. From there we could both see and hear the band very well but we had protection from the intense sun. It was a glorious day.

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Fern Forest Cafe 

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A day with the Monks

We visited some buddhist temples and it was great. Temples can be found all around the city so even if you haven’t been into one it’s quite easy to appreciate their glamour and opulence without having to actually venture into one. But when we came across this collection of temples in the middle of Chiang Mai city we couldn’t resist. Turns out that like in Bali, they do not take kindly to women being in their temples whilst menstruating (like as if that’s a carnal sin!), but rather then them asking women to refrain from entering the temple whilst their in their time of the month they don’t allow women to enter at all! Like, ever.

I must say, I would have expected better from the Buddhists. Alas, it would seem that sexism is alive and well even in the humblest of places. The temples and statues were amazing to see up close and we even got to watch a ceremony performed by the monks in the temple, which was impressive in both size and sight.

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Me outside a buddhist temple in Chiang Mai

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One Nimman

The new boutique shopping centre complex near our apartment, One Nimman, is still not fully open but as the Chinese New Year is approaching it is looking more and more ready to receive visitors and it really is an impressive sight. Comparible to the most elegant of shopping centres in London, Paris or New York, One Nimman is punching well above it’s weight. With it’s huge courtyard with twinkling fairy lights suspended between the buildings, beautiful stone used to build the clocktower centrepiece and all of the shops surrounding it, lots of stunning boutique shops, none of which I’d ever heard of before (and a Pan Puri fragrance shop opening up soon), it is enviably gorgeous. We walked through there and found a brand new coffee shop called Graph, selling really fancy coffee’s, a perfume shop which I was too afraid to go into as it looked so lovely and I knew if I ventured in there I would have had no choice but to buy some, a huge canteen area selling lots of different types of food, a creperie, and a brand new restaurant called Ginger Farm Kitchen.

This Ginger Farm Kitchen must have only been open a couple of days as we had never noticed it before. Decorated with a theme of an abundant summer garden (a theme I like very much), the place definitely had the wow factor. Plants and flowers were everywhere. Sitting on shelves, hanging from the ceiling, on the walls, tables and even in our food! Colourful and thoughtfully done, the Ginger Kitchen had clearly been put together from someone with a very good eye and an attention to detail.

Painted a pea green with enormous windows looking out onto the courtyard and the busy Nimmanaheim Road, the restaurant was light filled and sunny, with colourful cushions on the chairs and a colourful menu featuring mainly vegetables and flowers. They had some meat dishes too, but this was not the main feature here – beauty and colour was.

Both the drinks and the food was a winner. They are going to do really well I think and should we return we will definitely go back.

As we were leaving to go home and pack (boo hoo), we past another new business at One Nimman, it had no name and looked as if it wasn’t even properly open yet but the place looked amazing. It was perhaps a cafe of some kind as we could see a coffee machine on the counter as we walked by, but it also featured a huge variety of stone busts on tables, shelves and on the floor, along with comfy sofas and chairs amongst lively green plants. The place was like a living, breathing art studio/cafe. I was dying to go in there, I KNOW that it would have been right up my street alas it is not open yet and we are leaving Chiang Mai tomorrow. 

It is Valentines Day today and as I write this we are on our way to Singapore where we will be spending the day before going onwards home.

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The stunning garden like interiors at Ginger Farm Kitchen

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Deeelicious!

Singapore, the city of modern architecture

 When we arrived at Singapore Airport we found out that we could do a free tour around the city. We were on our way home but we had an 8 hour stopover in Singapore so we thought that it would be fun to do the tour in a city whose airport had been voted the best in the world for 5 years in a row and was STILL expanding. This airport was a monster! – with a cinema, swimming pool, spa, free massage chairs, sleeping cabins, shops and restaurants galore, flower gardens and even a butterfly museum.

We joined the tour group and after taking an age to get through customs we finally arrived on the streets of Singapore where we were bustled onto an awaiting bus. My first impression of Singapore was that it was clean. Like, spotlessly clean. When we started driving through the city, and listening to the guide tell us the history of the city, I was reminded again of how empty the place was – there were quite a few cars on the road but hardly anyone was on foot. It was another sprawling city, but unlike cities like New York and Bangkok, it was green, clean and almost devoid of people. And the architecture was impressive.

Undoubtedly, when it comes to modern architecture, Singapore is king. Almost all buildings there have been designed to reflect the forward thinking, ambitious modernity of the city. And rather then it just be all concrete tower blocks, they have invested heavily in landscaping so that all around the city there are an abundance of trees, plants and flowers. They even have parks dedicated to flowers that are free for tourists and residents to visit, such as the famous Flower Dome and Gardens by the Bay.

When we got closer to the Flower Dome where in a few days time they were going to be holding a celebration for Chinese New Year, the city suddenly got busier. I was surprised when the bus stopped and we were allowed to walk around the marina as technically we were just on a tour and didn’t have a permit to enter the country, but I was eager to see what it was all about. We strolled around the marina, which showcased the legendary “boat hotel” which was a hotel that looked like a skyscraper with a boat shaped top and was absolutely packed with tourists and residents alike, and then we were taken to the gardens, a stunning feat of architecture, botany and artistry with some truly amazing sculptures made from flowers.

We were in awe of the originality of some of these centrepieces, which were clearly designed to wow, but what we were not in awe of in Singapore was the distinct lack of vibe. It appeared to us that this city was a manufactured one, lacking in soul or energy which comes from the people who live within in. It was clear to me judging by the fancy hotels and restaurants I could see, that money had clearly been spent here and people were living well here (materially anyway), but that even that wasn’t enough to provide the sense of life and vibrancy that a good world city needs. In the end, I was happy to have seen it, to see what money buys you, how good it can make your city look. But ultimately, a place without vibe is no place at all.

So we have come to the end of our travels, and naturally the feeling is bitter sweet. We did not wish to leave, well not to go home anyway as we could have easily have gone on for another 2 months, alas it is what it is. We take home our memories, our stories and our pictures of which we took a few, but of course not nearly enough.

But what it has done for us, is to cement what we’ve always known: That we love to travel and we will making plans to do it again!

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Josh in Singapore

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The famous “Boat Hotel” in Singapore 

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The Good, the Bad, The Ugly, and the Busted

The Good

Particularly in Chiang Mai, things are so cheap that it is hard to believe that people are actually making a living out of selling things at this price. When you pay your 80 p to be taken to the other side of town, it makes you think of London and what an absolute scam it is to live here. And when you think about what is going on with the rise of Uber, and the determination of the black taxi drivers to drive them out of town because they are more competitively priced then them it makes you even more angry. Because Uber drivers aren’t even cheap, they are just cheaper then the alternative. But I can tell you this: I have never, ever paid a mere 80 p to be taken on any journey in London. Whether that’s by cab, train or bus. I think it costs something like £2 at the moment to go just one stop. AND you are sharing that journey with hundreds of other people with their germs and questionable habits. So the affordability of living in Chiang Mai is definitely a plus.

That goes for transportation, food, clothing, accommodation and entertainment, alot of which is free. The food in Thailand is unbeatable, and though it did get occasionally boring, as anything does if you have it too often, it was still fresh and tasty with bags of flavour though it was far more challenging finding vegetarian or vegan meals here and they haven’t even heard of gluten free!

The Night Markets in Thailand are great. Nightmarkets are such a distinctively Thai tradition and are so much fun to see even if you’re not buying anything (which I don’t think anyone could possibly do as they have a little something for everyone).

The weather, particularly in Chiang Mai was incredible. The best weather we have ever had anywhere. It never went much below 25 degrees but it was slightly chilly night which gave us a respite from the heat. There were no mosquitoes in Chiang Mai but plenty in Koh Samui so it’s pretty much even where that’s concerned, and again with the gecko’s and the tookay’s, which were terrorising us whilst we were in Koh Samui, but who we hardly ever saw in Chiang Mai.

The beaches in Koh Samui are some of the best of the world, and I found my favourite beach of all in Haad Thong Reng on the island of Koh Phangan, which was just magical.

Our day spent with elephants was something that I doubt either of us will ever forget in a hurry. Thailand remains a number 1 travel destination because it really does offer something for everyone and the Thai culture is so rich and colourful.

The Bad

The gecko situation in Koh Samui was unbearable and unacceptable. In the month that we were living there I was literally EXHAUSTED from trying to think up ways to get rid of these beasts and I couldn’t sleep at night for the noise of them. Bloody awful.

The perves – unfortunately I have come to realise that these Western perves are probably all over Thailand. After visiting Koh Samui again I found that they had increased in number but they are also in Chiang Mai too so I think it’s safe to say that these reject Westerners are all over Asia and in Thailand in particular.

The Chinese – I’m sorry but I have to say the presence of them in Thailand, and in Chiang Mai in particular was overwhelming. Partly it’s because of the sheer number of them as they seem to travel in groups of 10 or more. Partly it’s because their vanity and obsession with technology knows no bounds (the women take pictures of themselves incessantly and the boys do the same but also play computer games incessantly too). Partly it’s because they don’t seem to have any spacial awareness (they take up half the road when you are trying to walk down it as they seem to like congregating in one big cluster with no acknowledgement of others trying to go about their business). Partly, I don’t like this umbrella business because I know that if they were carrying them because they didn’t like the heat then they could just choose to go to a colder country and not come to one of the hottest, and I do not believe it’s simply because of the strength of the sun. I believe that they are desperately trying in earnest not to get darker. I know this because of the products they buy to lighten their skin that are sold on the open market and which they feel no shame about buying. 

And partly, it’s because they are far too loud. I don’t know whether it’s because they are deaf or whether their volume increases when they have had a drink but they are bloody loud and if you are in a restaurant trust me you are going to know about it!

The Ugly and the Busted

I don’t think there is a busted part of Thailand (apart from Bangkok perhaps, lol). Overall Thailand is a place with a rich culture, beautiful landscapes, good food, friendly people, amazing beaches and an abundance of things to do. The only part I really don’t like is the sex tourism which is tacky beyond belief and not particularly pleasant to encounter and the stray dog situation but other then that I think that Thailand is a wonderful destination for anyone to visit.

But I guess the ultimate decider is whether I could live here? Whether WE could live here?

Well we’ve been to Thailand twice now and I know that there are still many other islands to discover but from what I’ve seen so far, no, I wouldn’t want to live here. Koh Samui is too touristy, and Chiang Mai is even more so and I wouldn’t live there because it’s too busy, too noisy and too polluted. It’s a city, a unique city undoubtedly but I’m just not interested in living in a city longterm.

But Bali however, and Canggu in particular..Yes. We could live there happily (if our families weren’t so far away).

We have had many amazing experiences in our travels, and these are just a few!

#walkedwithelephants #playedwithmonkeys #swaminthesea #dancedlikeabalinesedancer #sunbathedonthebeach #hikedupawaterfall #modelledinbali #dinedinatreehouse #massagedonthebeach #dancedinthesea #visitedamidnightspa #fireworksonthebeach #sailedwithdolphins #bathedinaflowerbath #survivedanearthquake #dodgedavolcano #dinedinthesky #spentchristmasonthebeach #shoppedatthenightmarket #dinedlikeaqueen #spaintherainforest #visitedabuddhisttemple #watchedamuaythaifight #dancedatabeachclub #watchedmonkspraying #sawfiredancersonthebeach #drunkkombucha #visitedmyauntinbali #ateveganinbali #partiedonthebeach #visitedsometemples #livedamongstricepaddies #sunsetonthebeach #massageinthejungle #daytriptokohphangan #dinneronthebeach #sawmysisterinthailand #scammedabillionaire #rodeinasongthaew #spentvalentinesdayinsingapore

Places of Note:

Zazen – a magical place. Hidden away from prying eyes, once you meander through the maze like Japanese gardens your heart stops a beat you and find that you have fallen head over heels in love. Like I did. Twice.

Saffron – What better way is there to experience Thailand then from the stunning views overlooking a private beach cove? And transportation by golf buggy will be an experience I will always remember.

Service 1921 – Despite the owner being a questionable individual who seems to take pleasure from siphoning off as much as possible from the local communities his opulent hotels are located within, his restaurant Service 1921, fashioned from a colonial style secret service was top knotch.

The Jungle Club – Incredible views from one of the highest points in Samui which overlooks the whole island and offers one of the most zen like atmospheres to be discovered there.

Coco Tam’s aka Coco Piss – For the nightly fire shows that can be seen from your seat at their restaurant which offers the tastiest pizza in town!

Beach Republic – A firm favourite. Beautiful beach, great food, chilled out vibes and serious tunes. A winner.

Haad Thong Reng Beach, Koh Phangan – The sheer beauty and tranquility of this beach was astounding. It moves into first place as being my favourite beach in the world so far.

Dom Cafe – Everything in Dom’s is tasty and uniquely presented. We went to Dom’s almost everyday for a whole month and I never tired of their Steamed Chicken Bun or Coconut Rolls!

Fern Forest – We were surprised at how busy and touristy Chiang Mai was when we first arrived but what better place to escape the craziness then Fern Forest, a tranquil cafe that looks like it’s within an actual rainforest.

The Ethical Elephant Sanctuary – The best place to see elephants who have been saved from a life of servitude. Elephants who are well looked after, not ridden by humans and who live simple but happy lives in the northern Thai mountains.

Peace Tropical Spa – I had the best Thai massage ever here. Despite the paradise like beauty of Karsa Spa in Ubud, or the tropical abundance of the Anantara Spa in Bophut both which I loved, when I arrived at the Peace Tropical Spa in torrential rain I wasn’t convinced that I was even in the mood for a spa treatment but the massage I had ended up being so wonderful that I was almost floating when I emerged from my thoroughly relaxed, zombie-like state.

Week 1 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Week 1 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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As soon as we arrived in Chiang Mai we were greeted with a sun so intense it almost scorched both our eyebrows off. Before we had left Koh Samui for Chiang Mai we had been warned by various people there, including our villa’s cleaners and the staff at the Anantara hotel in Samui, that Chiang Mai was cold at this time of year so we were a half expecting to have to purchase coats when we arrived but as it turned out it couldn’t possibly have been hotter.

When we checked the forecast for the coming week all we could see was wall to wall sunshine on the horizon and it was due to be even hotter then the time we spent in Koh Samui and Bali combined! Woo hoo!

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I hadn’t done much research on Chiang Mai before we arrived there so I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that it was a very popular destination for travellers because of it’s temperate climate, had an abundance of things to do, and was even cheaper then Koh Samui. And I also knew that this was the home of Thai Elephants.

Seeing elephants, up close and personal in their natural surroundings, living their lives happy and free, was something that I always wanted to see whilst I was in Thailand. And in Chiang Mai, because it was located in the mountains, there was an abundance of elephants, lots who had been taken into good and into not so good care by sanctuary’s once the law was passed a few years ago that they mustn’t be used for work. But many of the sanctuary’s, indeed the vast majority of them in Asia, used the animals instead as ploys for tourism and allowed these beautiful, intelligent creatures of majesty and awe to be ridden. Not only did not I not want to ride an elephant, I also did not want to even see them being ridden as the thought of an elephant, so graceful a creature, being used in this way for our cheap human titillation made me feel very sad. So Josh and I had decided that the only way that we would want to see an elephant in Thailand is if it were free, and by that we meant no chains, no ropes and NO RIDING.

Our accommodation whilst we were in Chiang Mai was in the heart of the city. This time I knew that we had picked the right location for our travels as our condominium was located just a few minutes walk away from the very glamorous MAYA shopping mall, and just off the hugely popular Nimmanhaemin  Road, considered to be the most upmarket area of Chiang Mai with it’s abundance of boutique shops, bars, spas, restaurants and luxury condo’s and though our condo was not as new as two of the other properties we had stayed at, namely Pumpkin Village in Ubud and Bali and Sense in Canggu, Bali, The Nimmana, where we were going to be staying for the next month, was one of the newest condominiums in this part of Chiang Mai, which meant that we were one of only a handful of people to stay in our apartment which we had booked directly through the owner on Airbnb.

Chiang Mai itself I soon found out was actually a very busy city. It offered access to the mountains, vast national parks and temples but it was still a city with lots of traffic and noise and absolutely no beaches but I was thankful when we pulled up to our new apartment that it was largely shielded from the noise. The Nimmana was a high rise building, with around 350 individual private apartments. With high security posted at the entrance 24 hours a day and key card access to the lift, rooms and floors, it felt very safe indeed. Along with it’s great location on Nimmanhaemin Road, it also had a huge pool, a sauna and a gym, which for Josh and me, meant that we would have to find yet another reason to evade exercise, lol.

Our apartment was on the 4th floor and in stark contrast to our previous villa in Koh Samui, was a bijou 1 bedroom apartment which was ultra modern, extremely clean and had a balcony that overlooked the pool area. The owner was Chinese and perhaps had never even stepped foot in the property judging by how immaculate the place was and the choice of glamorous interiors. Perhaps she had just purchased the apartment as an investment and hadn’t even lived there.

After being what was seriously beginning to feel like being under siege by the steady stream of gecko’s that were waltzing brazenly into our home back in Samui, I breathed a sigh of relief as I knew that now, finally I could get some undisturbed sleep as I realised that somewhere as clean and new as this was extremely unlikely to have any gecko’s at all. And I was right. There were absolutely no gecko’s to be found! And unlike in Bali and Koh Samui, though admittedly Bali was far worse, since arriving in Chiang Mai we had seen absolutely no dogs whatsoever!

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Our apartment at The Nimmana in Chiang Mai 

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The feeling of Chiang Mai, when we dropped our bags in our apartment and went for a walk couldn’t possibly have been anymore different from how it felt to walk in Koh Samui. It was very busy, with people, cars, bikes and taxi’s everywhere and it had a real buzz about it. The climate was dry and intensely warm, like the best summers day in England you could possibly imagine. It was nothing like Bali’s climate, which was very humid, and nothing like Koh Samui, which was generally overcast for our entire stay. Instead here it was sunny, warm and dry – almost spring like. The weather was ideal – I couldn’t for the life of me work out what on earth the people in Koh Samui were talking about – it was by far the best weather we had experienced so far!

Strolling around we could already see why Chiang Mai had such a good reputation and why there were so many people walking around with backpacks (who were clearly travellers like us). It was because it had a distinctive vibe about it, wasn’t overly commercial but it had lots of shopping centres, cafe’s, quirky little shops and restaurants serving everything from Japanese to Iraqi cuisine but it was still very Thai. The highly rated MAYA mall, when we got to it, looked to me like a smaller version of Westfield back in London and it was very glamorous indeed. Infact I was quite shocked to see how much money had clearly been spent on this shopping mall, and the surrounding area. MAYA looked like a huge crystal maze and another glamorous new shopping centre named One Nimman that was due to be officially open looked like Thailand’s version of Covent Garden. It was lovely!

These establishments clearly had some money behind them – they looked far better then any shopping mall I had been to in Koh Samui, infact right now, Chiang Mai was putting Samui to shame!

We checked out the mall which was a multi-storied extravaganza of floors selling a minimal amount of clothes (compared to UK stores) on the 1st floor along with makeup and fragrance, on the second floor there was sports ware, some clothes shops and homewares, the third floor the entire floor was pretty much dedicated to electronics everything from phones to camera’s, the fifth floor had a food hall, where we popped into a Japanese restaurant called Fuji to have some sushi  – so good! And then on the floor above that was an arcade, a social hub/co-working space, a cinema that was also showing 4K movies, a normal gym and a Muay Thai gym where you could sign up and learn Muay Thai in just a month. And the best thing about it was that even if you didn’t want to learn Muay Thai you could just sit there and watch them spar. So cool! And then on the floor above that there was rooftop bars that were only open in the evening.

London had a lot to learn when it came to the variety of shops available in it’s super duper shopping malls as far as I was concerned. In particular, when it came to providing places for people to work, such as this co-working space which almost took up half the 6th floor of the MAYA mall. It was amazing. Lots of break out spaces and private meeting rooms aswell as desks and benches to work from and it was open 24 hours a day allday everyday.

On our way back down the escalator we almost walked smack bang into an Anantara Vacation Club presentation table. When Josh saw it he pointed it out to me and we had a private chuckle amongst ourselves but again, the lure of the free gift vouchers proved to be too strong and by the time we had arrived back at our apartment we had decided that we were going to go again meaning, that we were going to approach Anantara pretending to be yet another couple (for the third time in our travels) in order to try and get some more of these vouchers. We decided that tomorrow would be the day!

We had a clear plan in mind. All we wanted was to get the free Anantara vouchers and for that we knew that we would have to sit through another one of their presentations only this time, we would have never been to the Chiang Mai Anantara before so we didn’t need to worry about being spotted (unless of course the Koh Samui branch had alerted them of our scam), lol.

The way we saw it was we were just claiming what they were offering though of course to claim what they were offering we would still need to pretend to be someone else then who we had been previously, lol so when we approached the Anantara desk in the mall casually as if to enquire about their Vacation Club out of interest, we gave them the names of Vanessa Thomas and Rob Jackson, a mixup of my mums maiden surname and my current surname and his brothers and my sisters first names to allow us to remember them more easily, and a new address etc and then they booked us in for the presentation the following day. Since we didn’t have any transport yet and we were staying in an apartment not a hotel we knew that it would be fine if they picked us up from our apartment this time since the security guards at our apartment didn’t know the names of who was staying in the condo’s. Once again, so far anyway, our audacity had taken us through to the next stage and we were feeling very confident indeed!

Ginger & Kafe

That night we went to a Thai fine dining restaurant in the Old City called Ginger & Kafe, which was in a part of the City that still retained some of the earlier Chiang Mai before it was rebuilt and expanded. The restaurant was very quirky and colourful and the food excellent. It had come highly rated and I could certainly attest to the quality of the food and the thoughtfulness of the interiors. It also had another more casual restaurant attached which looked pretty good also and there was a garden which looked like it might be a nice place to go for afternoon tea in the daytime.

Anantara Part 3

The fact was that we quite enjoyed hearing these presentations. Well I did anyway. Partly, I was interested in luxury travel and that was what they were selling, partly, I really liked the brand, partly I was amused by William and his antics and partly I wanted those generous vouchers again. Since they were picking us up from home and dropping us back, offering us tea and coffee and taking us around the resort to promote the Anantara brand, I thought that it was a pretty good deal for a couple of hours of our time. And at no point in time were me and Josh in the market for signing up to a Vacation Club anyway even if it was one of the more appealing ones. Still, when we arrived I felt the familiar buzz of anticipation, both with the excitement of possibly getting found out, wondering what kind of sales person we might get and what they might say as it seemed to me so far that every presentation was different depending on who you got. The first girl wasn’t very convincing at all, the second guy was better and we were given more information about the vacation club then the girl had provided. We wondered who we’d get this time?

We got an English man. As soon as I saw the guy I started to feel slightly uneasy for if there was going to be anyone to sniff out our identity’s then this guy would be the one to do so. He seemed nice enough though so I told myself to just relax and keep to the story of me being Vanessa and Josh being Rob and we’d be alright.

He began the presentation by trying to find out a little more about us, our travel habits, our holiday plans, our holiday budget. I had previously been warned by Josh to let him doing the talking since this being our third time it was likely to be a little more tricky with the details. I was under the impression that since there was no possible way for this man to convince us to sign up to his scheme it didn’t really matter what I said, but I vowed to listen to Josh. I would keep it zipped. It didn’t take long before I think we both realised that this guy, coupled with the fact that he was a native english speaker from our own country and so naturally had more in common with us then a Malaysian salesperson, he was actually pretty good.

So much so infact that by the time he got halfway through his presentation, despite me hearing this presentation 2 times before just a few weeks ago, despite the offer being pretty much the same, and despite the fact that we were only there for the vouchers and were not in the market for a timeshare at all, I was almost ready to sign up. And so was Josh! But surely he was just telling you what you had already heard? I hear you ask. Well yes and no, he was throwing in a few extra’s but also, more importantly I think, he showed us ways of getting the most out of our “points” and scamming the system that was trying to scam us in a way, he showed us more options then we knew had existed before and also he took us around the hotel grounds and to a show apartment to give us an example of what we would be getting if we signed up and of course I liked it very much.

The show apartment, which highlighted both the spaciousness and the distinctive Asian inspired Anantara style, was great, and getting access to all of the facilities in the hotel was a bonus. Perhaps to the salesman, whose name was Julian, it was starting to look as if he was wearing us down and maybe he was, well me anyway, as when I thought about all of the amazing locations the hotels were located in, many of where I’d never even considered going before such as Abu Dhabi and Mozambique, coupled with the ones I had such as Sri Lanka and Brazil, it was starting to make sense to me.

Did we like this brand? Yes. Could we afford it – technically yes if we were able to pay in installments. And the key question from him to us: Would there be anything that would stop you having a holiday within the next 5 years time? – this is where I had to keep schtoom because I knew in my heart of hearts that there was literally nothing that could keep me from travelling within the next 5 years time but I knew that Josh didn’t want to be backed into a corner by this guy as though he was also feeling the pressure with the deal looking more and more impressive by the minute, he was the logical one and had no intention of signing up to this club. But when Julian went to go to the toilet Josh admitted to me that if we hadn’t fraudulently used different names in order to get the free vouchers then there was a very strong possibility that he would have considered signing up. But now obviously we could not.

When we walked out of the Anantara with our third lot of vouchers in hand, this time we felt a little differently then the times before. It didn’t have the sense of naughtiness and excitement attached to it, perhaps in part because we’d played this game a few times now and maybe had gotten used to winning. But it was also because we felt that an opportunity had been missed that though expensive yes, would have opened up new and exciting possibilities for Josh and I in our travelling life and thus we have decided that when the time is right we will revisit the idea again for the purpose of seriously considering it.  So in that way, maybe they will win afterall!

IMG_1458The Anantara at night: Schmancy even then!

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Night Bazaar

The night bazaar is a huge area spanning 1 kilometre of food stalls, craft sellers, clothes, art and trinkets. You name it – the night bazaar has it. Open every night from 18:00 till around midnight like Fisherman’s Village the stalls can be browsed for literally hours in a continuous succession of shoppers delight. It is infact so big and so spread out with side streets here there and everywhere, coupled with live music, restaurants and spa’s vying for attention, that it almost impossible to deny yourself the lures of the things being sold even despite the fact that many of the same things are being sold just a few tables down. Night markets are a hugely popular part of the Thai culture and the tourists just love it. Strolling around Josh and I almost (almost!) managed to ignore the pull of the stall sellers but then I saw some pink fisherman’s trousers that I liked so I bought myself a pair and Josh got himself some blue ones. These are the kinds of things people buy here in Thailand knowing that they are probably never going to wear them again once they get home but I really like mine and they were only £4. Bargain!

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Tasty, healthy food from The Salad Concept

Soul Singer Kim Jung Un

We arrived at another part of the night market called Ploen Rudee Night Market to find an area filled with food stalls and benches which wouldn’t have looked out of place in England. It was obviously very popular as it was packed to the rafters with people from all over the world and then a band came on who apparently was going to entertain us with Soul Classics. Normally that would suggest something like Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson, which though I had nothing against, I really would like to hear some proper soul music and not the predictable kind. So I was left left surprised and I have to say quite amused when a small, innocent looking Thai guy who looked very much Kim Jung Un, came along with a full band and started belting out the likes of Earth Wind and Fire, Roy Ayers and Rick James! And though he didn’t have an amazing voice and the backers were clearly struggling to do the harmonies that were required, I was very impressed with his attempt at singing such obviously soulful tunes that many people wouldn’t dare trying to sing and he was singing with true conviction – the man was loving every minute of it! I loved Kim Jung Un.

Chiang Mai is a huge city. There doesn’t appear to be a “centre” per say but there does appear to be a lot to discover as we have done just driving through the city. It’s a fascinating place.

Service 1921

Service 1921 was Anantara’s secret spy themed restaurant fashioned after the British consulate which the building actually was at one stage in time. The vouchers they had given us this time around they had cleverly only listed tours on the island and businesses they owned such as their spa and their restaurants but thankfully we wanted to go to their restaurant anyway so we booked a table there. Chiang Mai is a funny place as it seems quite difficult to find “fine dining” restaurants of the abundance and level that we can find elsewhere but thankfully Anantara’s Service 1921 was supposed to be one of the finest. And it was. A combination of Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine we had our most amazing meal there by far since arriving in Chiang Mai and the setting was suitably ambient. We used our vouchers so we didn’t pay a penny for our 3 course meal with cocktails but we enjoyed it so much that we will definitely be returning!

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My delicious and impressive “Gold Leaf” Cocktail at Service 1921

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Lip smackingly good!

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Menu’s are given to you in a spy like folder to keep with the secret agent theme 🙂

There are Chinese people everywhere here! Everywhere I tell you! Infact, there are so many Chinese people that I’m beginning to think that there’s more here then Thai people, they seem to be in the majority by far and that I guess would explain the investment in the area. We had a walk through One Nimman, the new shopping area that’s not officially open yet though alot of the shops there are and it looks amazing. It’s very high end and almost all of the shops in it are boutique brands that I’ve never heard of before including a fragrance brand called Pan Puri which I have discovered since arriving here that I’m a little obsessed with (though I refuse to pay their ridiculous prices). I refer of course to the branding itself and not the smell of the products as thus far from what I’ve smelt I haven’t been very impressed with their scents but I appreciate their eco credentials (they only use essential oils in their products) and have utterly captivating names and scent descriptions. I am definitely going to take some inspiration from them in my own business!

 But back onto the Chinese. There’s loads of them. This is clearly their number one travel destination outside of their own country and judging by the number of them in our apartment they are either living here or own properties here. Most of the businesses have signs in Thai and English but also in Chinese too which I don’t think I’ve even seen before and on some occasions there is only Chinese writing, no Thai at all! In our apartment we have a list of all the people who have stayed here and they all appear to be Chinese too like the owner.

The Chinese seem to travel en-mass, like a multi-generational group of people as if none of them have been on holiday before and what makes it more apparent when they travel in such large groups is the fact that there are hardly any pavements here (yes, no pavements), which means that you have to dodge them and their umbrella’s when you are trying to walk down the street.

The Business of Bleach

Is it raining? I hear you ask. No, it is not raining. It is infact the dryest, hottest and most pleasant climate I have experienced in a long while. And though it can get quite chilly in the evenings and early morning during the day it is lovely but these people, mostly Chinese but a few Japanese and Thai’s too I have to say, walk around with umbrella’s because they are afraid to get darker. They have an obsession with protecting their skin from the sun not because of any health reasons of course or else they would just wear sunscreen. No, they are absolutely terrified of getting darker and for a proud brown skinned lady such as I, I not only find this ridiculous for if they don’t want to get a tan then don’t come to a hot country (duh!) but also offensive, as both Josh and I have been trying to cultivate our tans and see it as a sign of good living and being well travelled, not the opposite! Some of these girls look so pale they almost look as if they are deceased. Why are you seeking the look of death? Why do you wish to appear as if your life has come to an abrupt end? WHY?- I honestly do not get it.

Of course this obsession with staying pale we all know is not just restricted to our Asian counterparts because in the black community we are just as bad if not worse, for over here, this kind of white seeking is the social norm, whereas we perhaps have not quite admitted it and overall like to pretend that we are proud of what we are whilst lusting after the opposite and buying under the counter face lightening creams – prevalent in both Nigeria and Jamaica not to mention other blessed brown places in the world.

It is upsetting to me. And utterly pointless. In almost every shop I have been in here from their small local shops to Boots they have skin lightening ingredients listed in almost every one of their products, proudly being displayed on the packaging as a benefit to the product and infact Josh has found it hard to even find a men’s face cream without the dreaded skin lightening ingredient in it. This isn’t being sold under the counter but very much on the counter, on brazen display and even in advertisements on gigantic billboards around Chiang Mai.

But what of I? – am I to also feel ashamed of my skin? Something that is a continuous battle in my own community, in my own country and certainly in the wider society? OH HELL NO. I do not seek the look of death and I would suggest that if you do that you do it in your own time and not try and force this completely un-natural nonsense upon me. For the sun is there to give you energy and colour to bring vibrancy to your skin and to your life. To hide from it is the very definition of self hate not to mention the fact that it’s not healthy to do so (in moderation of course) and I’m not down for it. Bring on the sun!!!

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Bleaching L’Oreal products for men found in Boots would you believe?!

Dash Teak House 

We went to Dash Teak House for dinner and it was great. I did try and make a reservation on the phone first but they wouldn’t take my reservation – they just told me to come down so we jumped in a taxi and went. Located down a dark and dingy, and quite frankly questionable alley with the perves of the foreigner variety, there with their short skirted Thai brides who were there scouting for more perves of the foreigner variety in small and distinctly looking seedy bars, we finally arrived at Dash.

Had we not been following our Google Maps, with the guarantee that Dash, one of the best restaurants on the island was located there, we would almost certainly have turned back as this particular road, with it’s dodgy looking unattractive English, American and French men sniffing around the much younger, and much more attractive Thai women, was not the kind of location for me. I felt dirty just venturing down it to be honest but finally we arrived and we could see that the place was heaving with people with a large Chinese contingency of about 10 people vying to get in, not to mention 6 other people in front of us but the guy at the door told us it would only be 20 minutes to get us a table so we went to the local bar and got some cocktails and less then 5 minutes he was back telling us that our table was ready.

The place was buzzing with live blues being played upstairs. We were seated in the garden so we couldn’t see the band but we could hear them and they sounded pretty good. As we had come to expect in Chiang Mai the food was both delicious and cheap! I was starting to think it was really quite criminal for food to be this cheap. It was certainly starting to become understandable why people made a life here. High quality of living and cheap as chips!

We encountered 2 cafe’s in our search for cafe’s where we could both work, one was open for 24 hours and was called Tom Tom’s fashioning itself off the Costa Coffee brand but it was huge and had actual meeting rooms in it! And then there was Dom’s, a uber cool cafe/dessert place/coffee place serving up some of the tastiest and most unique desserts I had ever seen! Things like Honey Toast with Milk Ice Cream. It is multi-level and has lots of places to sit and work and indeed we saw lots of people there with their laptops out doing just that. Reliable internet, great decor and great food, including their amazing Mulberry Cheesecake and Coconut Cake which are both to die for! What more can you ask for?

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Salmon Teriyaki, Miso Soup and Caramel Macchiato at Dom’s

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Some of my favourite snacks 

Elephant Dreams 

Finally our dreams came true and we made a plan to visit the Elephant Sanctuary. We walked into a local tour office on the high street and enquired about their Elephant Sanctuary’s whereby of course they immediately produced about 5 which allowed you to ride the elephants. I was insulted but soon realised that that is exactly what the vast majority of unthinking tourists wanted to do, and infact it was quite rare to find ones that did not allow any riding of the elephants whatsoever but that is exactly what we wanted. I did not come all the way to Thailand to see the abuse of these amazing sentient beings. Perhaps people don’t know that riding them hurts them. Perhaps they don’t care. But I do.

After finally explaining to her that I wanted a sanctuary that did not allow the riding of their elephants finally she produced some options. And it didn’t take me long to find the one I wanted to give my money to. The Ethical Elephant Sanctuary is a charity committed solely to the preservation of these amazing creatures. A family business passed down from generation to generation and providing employment to the Karen hill tribe, the elephants there have free reign, with their own personal mahout to ensure the happiness and welfare of each elephant. Local, ethical and a place that knows and cares deeply about the animals they look after. That is where I want to go. So we booked to be picked up the following day from our hotel for the almost 3 hour journey into the mountains to visit the elephants. The elephants who were truly free.

For some peculiar reason, they couldn’t give us an official time to collect us from our hotel. All they told us was that we would be collected somewhere between 6:30 am and 7:30 am in the morning for the journey into the mountains. Now that is bloody early and even earlier when you factor in the reality that for more then 3 months I haven’t been getting up any earlier then 10:00 am on average which has been really quite delicious, lol. Anyway we were picked up around 6:45 am by a fluent speaking Thai guide who so it wasn’t too bad and then we made the journey to pick up other passengers before making our way to the hills. Half way we stopped off at a local market, where we were told that we could go to the toilet and buy some food and drink if we wanted to but by the time I had seen the state of the place I decided that there was no way that I could eat there. I could just about make it to the toilet I was so freaked out that a rat or something would appear out of nowhere.

The journey into the mountains was treacherous indeed so I was very thankful to have such a skilled driver in charge of taking us there. And what made matters even worse was the fact that there was cyclists everywhere navigating the almost vertical roads on some adrenalin junkie business that I just did not understand. It was so steep that I could see that there was no way for them to stop for a rest otherwise they would just roll back down the hill, lol.

With a mixture of genuine excitement and anticipation I went to meet the elephants, for though I knew these were gentle giants I didn’t know whether today might be the day where one might decide to buck me with it’s huge head, afterall they are wild animals. But most of all, I was utterly terrified of seeing one being mistreated. I of course had never met an elephant before so wasn’t sure what to look for but in my heart I believed that I would just know and if I felt as though they weren’t being looked after and loved to within an inch of their hugely loving lives, I feared that my heart might burst with sorrow. Humans have done such harm to the world, to ourselves, the planet and to animals and I have kind of seen it all before where we’re concerned but harming an innocent animal is one of the most despicable and evil things that I can think of as they cannot protect themselves.

Thankfully I needn’t have been concerned for after we all changed into a traditional hill tribe shirt (so that they could recognise we were there to visit them so we were told), we were introduced to around 8 elephants of varying sizes and ages with 2 itty bitty babies which were the cutest things I’d ever seen in my life. And they were FREE! There were no chains, no ropes, not even an indication of any of these things and they looked both happy and healthy and very used to visiting humans. Indeed, they were the gentle giants I had imagined and hoped them to be. Thinking, feeling beings. I could sense it and my heart soared with joy. There were around 6 men and the guide there to watch over them and they spoke to them in Thai, which unbelievably the elephants seemed to understand! They were very well looked after, of that there was no doubt.

Soon we were given big buckets filled with banana’s and we were instructed to feed them one by one. A few of them were so big that I was a little afraid for I realised that if one decided to stomp on me he could very well do so without a moments hesitation and I would be done for, but I soon realised that all they wanted was their banana’s, and even though they were huge and could clearly do damage if they wanted to, when you reach out to them to hand them banana’s I could sense both the gentleness and strength in their grabbing of the banana from my hand. I didn’t like the wet, slightly rubbery feeling of their nose grabbing the banana from my hand but what did I expect? These were animals, it wasn’t going to be a clean, sanitised experience, lol. The more banana’s I gave them the more relaxed I was with them and thus they were with me. Of course I was in love. Who could not be?

After the feeding, which was surprisingly civilised considering they can eat up to 10 % of their body weight every day we were allowed to meet and stroke them including the adorable babies who were as cute and naughty as could be. Unfortunately before one of the elephants had been rescued it’s foot had been injured in a landmine incident on the border with Burma but other then that all of the elephants looked very well and relaxed. Their mahouts who stood by to play and interact with them aswell as ensure that nobody got hurt including them, and they seemed to have a wonderful and close relationship with them.

After feeding and meeting the elephants we followed them down to a mud bath where we were instructed to get in the stream with them which was filled with mud and wash them. When I envisioned bathing the elephants I had imagined it perhaps being with clean water but perhaps that was a little naive of me. Elephants loved mud of course. And it was good for the skin so after some reluctance I got changed into my bikini and got in there with them! Realising that I could get crushed between these huge beasts who seemed to be loving every minute of being in the water and having us splash them with it and rub them down with mud, I made sure that I checked my footing. The baby in particular was having an absolute blast! He loved it when we chucked water all over him and submerged himself completely in the muddy water wailing and kicking his legs as he went. He was adorable.

Afterwards we followed them into a river where we continued washing them and I was enjoying myself very much until I saw 5 gigantic lumps of doo doo floating towards me. That was when my foray into nature came to an untimely end. I had just about got with the mud situation – realising that they loved it, it was completely natural and was probably good for my skin but a doo doo bath I simply could not do!

Today I walked with elephants and I was left humbled. Truly this was one of the most memorable if not the most memorable experience of our travels thus far. 

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Baby loves his banana’s! 

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Standing next to Gentle Giants 

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They love the water! 

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Who couldn’t love these amazing animals?

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Josh with the little one 🙂 

 

 

 

Week’s 3 and 4 in Koh Samui, Thailand

Week’s 3 and 4 in Koh Samui, Thailand

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The night before my sister arrived in Thailand we were still hunting for the giant lizard that was on the loose in our villa.

We still had not found the tookay who had seemingly set up permanent residence in my sisters bedroom, and even though we could clearly hear it scratching about and running up and down the ceiling late at night, his long talons clinging, scaly tail swooshing about as he went, we simply could not locate him for love nor money and so in the end we had to call in the assistance of our villa manager Khun Tor.

When Khun Tor arrived we explained to her that Josh had sighted a tookay in my sisters bedroom more then a week ago, and we could hear it clearly every night around the same time seemingly running across the ceiling but despite our efforts, we still hadn’t managed to find him. Khun Tor went onto tell us that there had never been a tookay in the house before (as if we somehow had invite him in!), a tookay in the home was considered to be good luck by the Thai people (no thanks!), but she said that she would look for him herself.

I knew that there was no way that she was going to find him as as we had clearly stated in our text to her, we had already supposedly confined him in the bedroom but we had checked it multiple times only to find he wasn’t there and the cleaners had looked for him too and hadn’t found him, plus we had recently discovered a hole the size of a letterbox in the overhanging coving in the ceiling which he could probably fit through.

It appeared that the stupid builders had thought it a good idea when they built the villa to leave a hole in the ceiling where the ceiling light’s wiring went and it was big enough to allow tookays and gecko’s alike a perfect place to hide. This also made sense as it sounded to me as if this beast was running up and down within the ceiling as if he were trapped there or something. No, this was a job for the professionals, and by that I mean lizard removal men! Alas Khun Tor didn’t listen. She was determined to locate him herself.

She got a ladder and took it upstairs into the bedroom to attempt to peer through the hole in the ceiling to see if she could see him, to no avail. 10 minutes later she comes downstairs. It appears as though she had no idea that there were large holes in the ceiling and says that she will call someone out to come and have a look. In our short time here in Thailand, Khun Tor has impressed us with her ability to fix almost any situation with speed and ease. She seems to know everyone in Thailand and we have had a succession of cleaners, tookay hunters, pool men, gardeners, electricians, scooter rental and car rental reps at our door within a matter of minutes after alerting her to an issue. Undoubtedly she is a very busy woman, but she seems to enjoy her job and is very good at it. Though she doesn’t seem to ever respond to text messages, her command of English is very good, far better then most of the service people she deals with.

Minutes later a very small man arrives, along with one of our cleaners (the one who couldn’t find the tookay the last time), and an adorable baby girl in a pink Hello Kitty outfit who she holds on her hip. Standing next to Josh, who is 6’2, this little man looks ridiculous. What on earth will he be able to do? Yet it is him who is able to stand on the top of the ladder and almost climb right into the hole because he is so small. Plus being a local I’m sure that he has come into contact with these little critters before!

STori, Mother of Dragons, Guardian of the villa

Thankfully, whilst we were waiting for the professionals to arrive Khun Tor actually heard the tookay for herself which made me very happy as I realised that by now I was probably starting to sound as if I was going mad! Yet despite the little man, despite Josh, despite the cleaners, and despite Khun Tor, nobody could locate this bloody tookay!

By this time, with the arrival of my sister getting closer and closer I told Josh that under no circumstances could we remain in this villa if this thing was not found. Was I prepared to move again? you ask. Yes, I most definitely was. Even though we were really enjoying staying in the villa and were very comfortable there I was simply not prepared to share my home with a dragon.

So these people best find it!

Josh and I had already decided that unless they physically saw and removed this beast we would have to sleep in the main house and give up our own bedroom in the small house to my sister. They returned defeated but then seconds later another group of people, this time around 4 guys that looked like actual professionals, dressed to the nines in protective clothing, gloves and a top jaw rope – those ropes with a hoop on the end that they use to catch CROCODILES, arrived. These guys meant business! And since we knew we were dealing with a crafty fellow this is exactly what was required – professionals. The very fact that they came with this piece of equipment to deal with a tookay meant the thing I had heard about them were true: they were potentially dangerous.

Unfortunately, even though they searched the inside and outside of the house thoroughly they still did not find it. But as they were leaving and Josh and I were waving goodbye to them on the porch, with Khun Tor in her usual position talking frantically on her mobile phone, I spotted a tookay crawling gingerly on the outside of our roof as if to attempt to evade capture.  At first it did not occur to me that it could possibly be the same tookay that we had been hunting for almost 2 weeks because that one, I was convinced, was trapped in the house.

Or was it?

I pointed the tookay out to Khun Tor who looked as if she couldn’t believe her eyes upon sighting him and she yelled to the guys who were literally just about to leave that she had seen a tookay! They came back, extended this top jaw rope towards the tookay who looked very displeased to see them and then abruptly, with lightning light speed they threw the loop over his head and yanked him down and into an awaiting sack which they promptly closed and sealed firmly. But this thing wasn’t going to let them get away that easily. Oh no. He proceeded to squeal a murderous squeal before riggling violently and hissing loudly at them. This was no household pet – this was A BEAST.

It didn’t occur to me to think that this tookay, who had mysteriously appeared was infact the same tookay that we had supposedly trapped in my sisters bedroom, because they said that they hadn’t found it when they had looked and as far as I could see there wasn’t a way out, but undoubtedly, it did seem to be a big coincidence. They took the tookay away and then we said goodbye to Khun Tor.

For the next couple of hours we listened out to see if we could hear the “remaining tookay” but we didn’t hear a thing. It was really odd as usually this would be the tookay’s prime roaming time and at the time I just could not explain how it would have been able to get out of the house if it had been trapped in that room so we decided that to be on the safe side we would sleep in the main house for the next 2 nights so that we could assess the situation. This meant that when my sister arrived the next day she could sleep in the small house for the first night so that we could ensure that it was safe for her to move in.

I was a little on edge that night as although we were not sleeping in the room it had been spotted but in the twin bedroom next door, I still didn’t know whether this thing had managed to escape or not. Also, as it was twin beds that we had pushed together I kept on slipping into the cracks, but other than that I can honestly say that it was the most restful sleep that we had both had since arriving at the villa, partly because the bedroom seemed far less frowsy (or musty) then the other bedroom in the small house (perhaps this was because of the abundance of curtains that the owners seemed intent on using in it), it was far less dusty, and there were less places for gecko’s and other questionable creatures to lurch. And the bed’s were far more comfortable than our own!

The following day we got up bright and early so that we could go and pick up my sister from the airport. Since arriving in South East Asia almost 2 and a half months ago, I had had the pleasure of seeing my Aunty Jac in Bali, who had come over for a holiday with my Uncle and now, I was getting to see my sister, who we had invited over to spend some time with us in Thailand. Being a huge family person, and blessed with a close and loving family, it was important to me to maintain those family connections whilst I was away living my dreams, so to have them along with me on my travels at various points was a blessing indeed. I knew that my sister had been suffering from exhaustion back in the UK, both physically and mentally, and was desperate to get away from the doom and gloom of winter in England and get some much needed sun, and I knew that coming to the exotic natural beauty of Thailand would be just the remedy!

When we arrived at the airport we found her flight had been delayed. She had been travelling nonstop for 13 hours, with a stop over in Malaysia so I knew that she would be absolutely bushed when she arrived. I was relieved when she arrived safely and I was very happy to see her but unfortunately we had no suitable food in the house for her to eat since she is diary and gluten intolerant so I suggested that we drop her off at home first so that she could sleep whilst me and Josh went to Tesco’s to pick up some bits. Alas she said that she would rather come along so off we went to do some shopping with my sleepy sister in tow!

When we arrived back at our villa we told my sister about the current tookay situation and advised her to sleep in our bedroom for her first night there. She loved the villa, both how private it was, how well designed, comfortable and spacious it was and said that she would be happy for us to spend lots of time there just chilling out but I had other plans for her!

She had less then 2 weeks with us in Samui and I wanted her to get the very most out of it and what it had to offer. Being that it was now mine and Josh’s second time in Thailand, and in Samui specifically, we knew that we had a pretty good understanding of the very best places to go and the best things to do and I wanted her to go back having experienced a good portion of it, but of course I realised that she was tired so after a leisurely dinner, where we chilled out and chatted about what was going on back home, she retired to bed.

Tomorrow, I promised her, the fun would begin!

Fisherman’s Village Night Market

I had made a list of all of the things that I felt she should experience in her time in Samui, trying to make sure they were as varied as possible and that morning over breakfast, we went through them to identify which ones she really wanted to do and which ones we would do if we had time to and then I set about identifying which ones were weather dependant or needed booking and made the relevant reservations but the first one was really easy, as it was only a short drive away, free, and was where we went most nights for dinner: Fishermans Village.

Every Friday night Fisherman’s Village in Bophut had their legendary nightmarket and tonight was the night.

Nightmarkets were a big part of the Thai experience, and everywhere in Thailand, from Bangkok to Phuket to Samui, were capitalising on their growing popularity. It was something that seemed to be unique to Thailand, and I had certainly not experienced the sheer scale, variety and originality of this anywhere else in the world. And in Koh Samui, the Fisherman’s Village nightmarket, was the best one of them all.

Transformed into a pedestrianised street, stall sellers selling anything from dried crickets to fake handbags, handmade soaps to Bob Marley t-shirts were sold on the Fisherman’s Walk and surrounding roads by the locals. The variety of items on offer, even if they were not to my taste, or not particularly of a good quality, were still mesmerising to see in such unbelievable abundance. And the vibrancy of the streets lit up with live music, restaurants and spa’s all heaving with customers and seeing people from all over the world, who came to touch, smell, look and haggle with the local sellers over the various items for sale was quite intoxicating. Even if you weren’t there to buy, or had no interest in trying the questionable foods being sold on the food stalls (like us), it was still something worth experiencing, and admittedly the market had a little something for everyone to draw you in. My sister was completely mesmerised by all of the things on offer, and being a slight shopaholic, lol, she set about haggling with the Thai people with ease!

The Thai people are very relaxed about most things in life, and selling fake goods such as designer purses, bags and jewellery was among them. At this market you could buy all manner of designer goods, some which came from the very same manufacturers that made the “designer” goods, on brazen display, infact there were even retail shops in Samui selling fake goods such as these and they seemed to be doing very well indeed!

When we were in Samui last I picked myself up a bag and Josh got himself a watch (which is now no longer working I hasten to say). Alas, it was so cheap that he could afford to buy more then 10 of the watches for the price it would cost him to buy 1 that is why they were doing such good business here.

After escaping the lures of the nightmarket we experienced a bit of Thai hospitality at a lovely Thai restaurant called Krua we had been to before which overlooked the beach.

The tookay that we were convinced had infiltrated the villa and was hiding in my sister’s room never made another appearance, therefore it became clear to us that the one that they had removed was the same one we had heard. The following day I went into my sisters room to double check that there was nothing lurching there and almost immediately I spotted a gecko scurrying across the wall. This gecko was a slightly larger gecko, bigger then the ones that frequent our bedroom but it was a gecko nonetheless.

Could this be the “tookay” that Josh said that he saw? – it certainly made sense.

  1. The tookay they removed from the property had clearly been the same one that we had been hearing on the roof running, scratching and searching for prey as since that night we hadn’t heard a dicky bird.
  2. We never actually found the tookay that Josh reported seeing despite confining it to a bedroom, where it was too big to hide and a literal army of people searching for it. 
  3. This was a gecko that perhaps upon initial sight could have been perceived to be a tookay when infact I could clearly see that it was a gecko.  

I pointed it out to Josh and my sister and Josh got rid of the unwanted by using his favourite weapon: Dettol.

Of course I’d like to say that this gecko murder wasn’t neccessary. That I would be able to coexist with the beast shitting all over our house, scaring the bejeezers out of me everytime I opened a drawer or went to the toilet or chirping above my head whilst I was in the middle of a deep sleep, but that just isn’t true. This gecko business was starting to become unbearable. And since they did not want to take their cue that the outdoors is where they should reside and NOT my house, we had no choice but to take action. Did I feel good about giving Josh the go ahead to eradicate this critter from my life? No, I didn’t, infact I felt very sad about it as I know that it was essentially a small and defenceless creature but that doesn’t mean that I must be forced to live with it. I want it to live and I want it to thrive but NOT IN MY BATHROOM. Alas, it had to go.

On a positive note however: now that we had finally identified what the unbearable noise was that we had been hearing, seen the professionals remove the tookay from the property and dealt with the roaming gecko, my sister could now move into her room with no stress, and we could move back into ours.

Lamai and Muay Thai

We had stayed in Lamai in our previous time in Samui and though it wasn’t as quiet as Mae Nam it was still pretty lowkey in comparison to Chaweng, asides from the nights when it had it’s own nightmarket and it’s Saturday night event: Muay Thai Fighting.

The beauty of being in Thailand of course was not just it’s beaches and stunning landscapes, but it’s buddhist temples, amazing food and of course: Muay Thai. In Samui, as I’m sure all over Thailand, they were big on Muay Thai, and you could see the big fights in a huge local arena almost every week here, however I knew that they had a tradition of selling tickets to tourists at “tourists prices” and I didn’t particularly fancy sitting there watching 12 other minor fights whilst waiting for the big one to begin therefore when we found out about a Muay Thai fight that you could go and see for free, in the middle of popping into a local restaurant for a Pad Thai or perusing the local stalls for various unnecessary goods, we were sold.

The last time we saw Muay Thai fighting here it had been between young children (who seemed to be somewhere between 8 and 10 years of age) and girls, interspersed between ladyboy’s dancing in between the fights but this time, though there was a fight between young boys again (one of whom was far too cute to be fighting I thought), there was also a fight between older boys (teenagers really), young men and girls. Of course the fighting between the girls was the most enjoyable. For some reason the butch and ugly looking one seemed to believe that she was a winner as she had a very aggressive style of Muay Thai and had seemingly a large portion of the audience rooting for her, but I was rooting for the other one, who to me though less aggressive and explosive, had a more unique fighting style which if used right would certainly be the victor.

At the end of the rounds the butch looking girl started yelping and jumping up and down as if she had won but I don’t know why she thought that as the other girl clearly had the edge on her. You lost love! 

With the combination of the tasty Thai food, the variety and excitement of the nightmarkets and the Muay Thai fighting, free for all on the streets, my sister was certainly hitting the ground running with her authentic Thai experience and she was loving every minute of it.

Beach Republic

Beach Republic was one of the few beach clubs in Koh Samui, and in my opinion, the best one. It was located on a seemingly private stretch of beach and had a really cool, laid back, chilled out vibe about it. We happened to stumble upon it when we were in Thailand before and had liked it so much that we went back a further 2 times so now that we could verify both it’s quality and consistency, we decided to take my sister there. Beach Republic was great firstly because of it’s location. On a picturesque stretch of beach in Lamai, it was both private and peaceful and had an eye catching colour scheme of red which was splashed liberally throughout it’s sunbeds, beach sala’s and lanterns that were dotted all over the resort. Aswell as being a beach club, it was also a spa and a hotel, but it was so laid back there that each time we had gone there despite them telling us that the beach sala’s were reserved for hotel guests only they had allowed us to use them, and the sala’s had a great invention: they had a button on them which allowed you to call a waiter over without even having to move your head or raise your hand: Genius!

We arrived at Beach Republic in time for their Sunday Brunch, which they had every Sunday. For the cost of your ticket you could get a free cocktail and an unlimited supply of their very delicious and abundant beachside brunch. Their brunch options were so vast that it would simply be impossible to try all of what they had but I remembered in fondness how despite the fact that they were putting on essentially a buffet (which I personally am not a fan of), the food was always fresh and delicious. In the main course section you could have sushi, fresh salmon, a Sunday Roast (which was pretty good actually and had all the trimmings), various types of meats, pasta’s, salads, Thai food, fish, vegetarian dishes, rice, noodles, and there was another section where you could get fresh lobster, steaks and prawns cooked for you there and then. The Pad Thai was also cooked fresh with your choice of ingredients aswell as the pasta dishes.

Desserts, which included cheesecake, brownies, carrot cake, fresh fruit, cheese board, pana cotta, chocolate mousse and icecream were kept cool in a temperature controlled room. And the best thing of all was that there was a crepe van there too – a van where a man made fresh crepes from scratch with your choice of fillings and sauces. I chose a caramel, coconut and banana one and it was very tasty indeed. My favourite dessert combination was having a fresh caramel, coconut and banana crepe with a scoop of vanilla bean icecream on it. Deeelicious! For my main course I had vegetables in oyster sauce with egg fried rice and a mojito and I was very happy. I really didn’t need anything else.

After having lunch in the restaurant we were shown to a lounge area with big sofa’s and cushions that we could stretch out on and enjoy the stunning views of the Andaman sea lapping gently against the shore. We had completely unobstructed views but could see other islands on the horizon and with the combination of the chilled out music that was provided by the very talented resident musician who we remembered hearing play the last time, we were completely blissed out. The sea was calm, the sun was shining and it was very refreshing having a leisurely swim in the sea whilst the music was playing in the background. The musician played acoustic guitar (but acoustic guitar that was devoid of the usual cheesiness associated with acoustic guitarists), and once he finished playing the resident DJ started playing (who coincidentally, along with the resort manager was from the UK), and he was excellent. He played a combination of soul, funk and house music and played tune after tune after tune. He certainly kept the chilled out vibe going. And then we had another surprise: A saxophonist came on and played along with him for the rest of the afternoon and he was great! It was such a lovely, unusual surprise but the saxophonist was clearly very good at improvising and was able to play along with every single song even when it was booty shaking house. I loved it.

Since the beach sala was unavailable when we arrived we had been keeping our eyes open for when it was so that we could move onto it as soon as it became available and so when we saw one was empty we retreated there where we continued enjoying the good musical vibes. My sister was enjoying herself so much that she spent an extended amount of time in the sea dancing to the music and then took herself off to have a Thai massage on the beach for an hour and a half. I was glad that finally she had completely left the UK behind, with all of it’s stresses and strains and was absorbing herself fully in the moment. It was a great day. And of course I got to press the service bell which filled me with a totally unneccessary kind of joy.

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A chilled out Sunday afternoon at Beach Republic

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Beach Sala’s. Ring the bell for service!

Greenlight Cafe

The following day we took my sister down to a healthy cafe we had encountered on the island – one of a very few I’m afraid to say! Unlike Bali, which is very much a health conscious island, perhaps because of the abundance of health conscious Aussies on the island I’m not sure, Koh Samui has an abundance of fine dining results with exceptional cuisine but they aren’t so up on the allergy thing, which means that for someone like my sister who tragically is both gluten and diary intolerant, there are not many places she can go where she will have a full menu to choose from.

But Greenlight Cafe offered peace and tranquility, located down a quiet part of Fisherman’s Village, and health conscious food, a combination of vegetarian, gluten, organic and allergy considered menu and the staff there was very friendly. We both chose the gluten free pancakes as though I am not allergy ridden, I liked the sound of the pancakes that came with fruit and honey and was felt like having something sweet to eat. Josh chose a healthy salad and a fresh shake, which was named “Heaven on Earth” a bold statement indeed, but when he tasted it I could immediately tell that something heavenly had occurred as he refused to share any of it! It contained almond milk, almond butter, dates, cinnamon and cacao and when I did manage to get to sample it I really could not believe how heavenly it tasted either. It was so good it was bad. Surely this cannot be good for you! I thought.

Our pancakes, as expected were very good, but the portion size was ridiculous. As soon as I saw the 2 pancakes, which were big and fluffy and had an abundance of fruit between and on top of them, I knew that I was going to have trouble eating them, especially since they were not buttermilk ones, which tend to be a little less dense and heavy. By the time I had eaten one I was really starting to struggle and so was my sister. The last thing I wanted to do was offend these people by sending it back because it was very good but portion control was clearly not happening here as Josh’s salad was huge also. Josh managed to finish his salad but my sister and I got about 3 quarters of the way through our pancakes before we had to give up.

Chaweng Beach

The weather was glorious so we decided to take ourselves down to Chaweng Beach, the best beach on the island, for a leisurely beach day. Samui had many beaches to explore but Chaweng is the finest one of them all. It is well developed with lots of resorts and restaurants on the beach but is big enough to take them all without it becoming overcrowded or too commercialised. You could still find a lovely stretch of beach without anybody on it, plus the sand was a soft, powdery white and the sea an aquamarine blue, with almost no seaweed or floating rubbish whatsoever. I’m not a fan of swimming in dirty sea water but thankfully the sea here was crystal clear, clean and warm. It was so glorious that it was extremely difficult getting out of it and my sister certainly did not want to leave at all!

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Chaweng Beach and their £5 an hour massages 

Dinner was at a Thai restaurant in Chaweng called Red Snapper. Chaweng High street with it’s vibrant nightclub, retails shops and massage spa’s a plenty was not renowned for it’s food but Red Snapper, a Thai seafood restaurant, served some very delicious and fresh seafood including the best starter I’d had since we had arrived here: scallops and prawns on a vegetable pie with a creamy, spicy sauce. It was really really good!

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Scallop and prawn starter at Red Snapper 

The Anantara vouchers we had managed to scam so elegantly, we had decided to use in one of the most expensive restaurants, infact perhaps the most expensive and certainly the most highly rated on the island: Tree Tops. Essentially a small collection of private treehouses with their own butlers serving an extortionately priced Mediterranean menu from it’s perch above the trees and overlooking the beach and tropical gardens of the Anantara Hotel, Tree Tops was described as being the most unique dining experience Samui had to offer.

When I had come across the restaurant before and looked at the price to dine there my jaw had literally dropped. I simply could not believe that Thailand were trying to ask for more money then many of the best European restaurants, even despite the fact that it was supposed to be a once in a lifetime experience, but when I established that it was another William Heineke establishment as Tree Tops was actually a part of the Anantara Resort brand and was located on the grounds of their Chaweng branch, coincedentally which is where we went to get our second round of vouchers, I wasn’t surprised anymore as William is on a scam!

The price to dine there was so high that even our vouchers (worth just under £250 in total), was not going to cut it.

I made our reservation for a couple of days before we left the island and I sincerely hoped that they blew me away with their offerings because I had not been frequenting shoddy establishments and I knew what quality such monies should give me!!

Dr Frog’s

Dr Frog’s, despite the name, was not a French establishment serving up frogs legs, but an Italian restaurant in Lamai.

It was one of the most popular restaurants on the island for it’s food, which was fresh, good quality, authentic Italian, and it’s scenery, which had a backdrop of staggering beauty with uninterrupted views overlooking Lamai beach and the sea beyond.

Dr Frog’s also happened to be somewhere that we could use some of our vouchers at and after our disappointing experience with Happy Elephant I really wanted to use them somewhere worthy. We arrived around 17:00 just before the sun went down and we did indeed have wonderful views. My sister in particular was very impressed with how beautiful the island was in this light and we got to see a lovely sunset as we were having our cocktails. I remembered the head chef, who seemed to make a point of going over to each and every table (there were only a few occupied), and making small talk with them. He was an Italian man, and despite the many years he had clearly been working and living in Samui he still had an impressively strong accent. This gave me hope regarding the food as the appearance of him to me solidified my assumption that we were going to get some authentic and hearty Italian food. 

But instead of him going back into the kitchen to begin rolling my spinach and ricotta pasta parcels he just stood around looking bored as if he had nothing to do. But he did have something to do: My pasta! Now I was worried. Had this man fallen out of love with cooking now? Did this mean that he was getting a Thai chef to cook his authentic Italian menu? Was I going to get inferior food??

Unfortunately, yes. When our food arrived (we had all ordered various pasta dishes as we thought that they would be cooked the best), it was a disappointing experience. Josh could even have sworn that they had given him a reheated lasagne! Unacceptable!

The head chef didn’t even bother to go into the kitchen during the period that our food was being cooked to check on the quality or presentation of it. He didn’t seem even remotely bothered and instead kept on walking around with his hands behind his back, belly protruding forward whilst a Thai chef tried in earnest to follow his Italian Grandmothers recipe!! This will never do I thought: Get back in the kitchen!!

Alas, the man refused to go into the kitchen. And thus the food was average. Perhaps average was a little strong- it was still tasty, but it was without a doubt far better the last time we had been there and that was a damn shame.

Firedancers on the beach

The following day we had dinner at Coco Tam’s, the beach bar and pizzeria on Bophut beach. It’s a great place to chill out because of it’s strategically placed position on the beachfront with a view of the firedancers who performed on the beach nightly. So far we had seen them perform around 4 times already, but they changed up their routine so that it was new each time and it was always great fun and a spectacular show.

The pizzeria was a new feature of Coco Tam’s and seemed to be doing very good business. It was packed each time we went there and on a few occasions when we had wanted to eat there we couldn’t because they had no available tables and they had only been open for a couple of weeks. The pizza there was unbelievably good – my favourite is Margherita, always has been even before I stopped eating meat, and this one was unbelievably tasty. The base was fresh and perfectly cooked, the tomato sauce on the pizza was juicy and the cheese was both buttery and salty. So good!

After dinner we moved to the beanbags on the beach to watch the firedancers do their thang. They had a few new routines, some that didn’t go so well but overall it was an awe inspiring thing to watch and completely free! If this was in London they would have charged alot of money for people to see it yet here we were on the beach watching firedancers for free.

Big Buddha and the climb of death

Now that we had ticked off a few things off our list we wanted my sister to experience the more cultural side of Thailand. One of those things was going to see the Big Buddha statue and visiting Numuang Waterfalls, one of Samui’s most impressive natural waterfalls. Both of these things we had seen before, but though we told my sister that we had personally found the Big Buddha statue underwhelming, my sister still wanted to see it, which we completely understood if someone hadn’t seen something like that before, so we planned a trip to visit them both on the same day.

When we arrived at the site where the Big Buddha statue was located we were left underwhelmed again as similarly to at Tanah Lot, though perhaps not quite as desperate, there were sellers of various cheap and nasty wares posted up around the site ready and waiting for the tourists who had come to visit what was supposedly a sacred site. I was struggling to understand the correlation between the monks, who were there dishing out blessings to individuals who paid them for it, and who insisted on visitors covered up their arms and legs up before making the climb up the stairs to see the big gold Buddha and not adorning themselves with items depicting Buddha because it was offensive, and the many retail stores that surrounded the site selling cheap knick knacks to unsuspecting tourists.

Again I wondered about the validity of their claim that it was sacred when they allowed such unsacredness to occur in front of their very eyes. But perhaps they didn’t have a choice in such matters, who knows. All I knew was that once we got to the top of the staircase that lead us to the buddha all 3 of us were left underwhelmed yet again. We could see that he had had a fresh paint job that much was certain, but I could see still the unmistakable sign that he had been painted and thus the mystery remained completely nonexistent. I could see that this buddha had upkeep, I could see that he was within a supposedly sacred sight that didn’t feel very sacred at all and overall, I felt as though it would have been much more believable if he was actually a gold buddha, not just a painted gold one. Overall, I wasn’t very impressed with this tourist attraction and my sister wasn’t particularly impressed either. We left the miserable place and started making our way to Numuang Waterfalls which was on the other side of the island.

We arrived quite late to the waterfalls as the drive was much longer then we anticipated but as soon as we got there we had the pleasure of witnessing a herd of majestic elephants on their walks around the grounds. The last time we had been here we had witnessed elephants chained up in cages and it broke my heart. I love elephants and seeing them outside of their natural habitat, being ridden by humans or being chained up and prevented from living their natural, wise, immensely humbling and awe inspiring life was a painful thing to see. I remember looking into the elephants eyes and seeing a knowing there and elephants have and will remain one of my favourite animals, along with monkeys, because of the depth of understanding and emotion that you can seemingly read in their eyes. They are beautiful animals.

On this site, along with the waterfalls, they also had an area where you could do quad biking, zip lining, elephant trekking and the latest attraction: “taking a picture with tigers” which I was also not very impressed about. I wondered how on earth it was possible to take a picture with a tiger unless it were not operating within it’s normal characteristics and I had heard stories of tigers being injected by people in order to stop them from being their natural tiger selves which was just terrible. No, I did not wish to see a paralysed tiger thank you very much!

The waterfalls were located at the top a very steep hill which I remembered Josh and I had walked the last time we were here but nobody else seemed to bother because they had a contingency of 4×4 jeeps ready and waiting to take people there.

This time we decided the smart thing to do considering it was getting late and take the jeep there rather than walk. So my sister and I jumped onto the roof and away we went up through the surrounding jungle where our heads almost touched the top of trees to the beginning of the hike up to the waterfalls. When we got off we were greeted with an almost vertical climb to visit 2 of the magnificent waterfalls. Josh and I had done this hike before so we weren’t at all concerned about how strenuous the climb might be and  began making our way to the first point of the hike.

Strangely, there was now a rickety looking make shift wooden bridge crossing, that had been put up over the rocks that before we had just climbed over. I wondered what had happened that they felt they had to erect a wooden bridge? Had someone had a terrible accident here? That was entirely plausible since it was quite a treacherous climb, and was certainly not suitable for alot of people since it required climbing up steep inclines, crossing streams and balancing on rocks. But what was most disconcerting was the fact that according to the sign posted up at the start of the bridge, we should only go over it one by one!!

Why was that I wondered? And, was it one by one Asian style or one by one Westerner style? – because we have all seen the size and weight of alot of Westerners and in some cases they are worth approximately 3 Asian people on average. This was concerning. None of us were overweight but would this rickety bridge hold our weight? – we decided to take no chances and crossed it one by one with the stream rushing violently by underneath our feet. Thankfully we made it across it one piece and now we began the real climb, up the side of the waterfall to get to the next level which was hidden out of sight. Once we got there we allowed ourselves to marvel at the natural beauty and power of this water display, which cascaded over rocks with wanton abandon with a stream of sunlight from above illuminating it and tropical, dense woodland on either side. We sat on the rocks for awhile taking in our surroundings. There were a few others there too – a group of French people, who were sat on the rocks taking pictures. But apart from that it appeared that we were late to the party as we had arrived at the waterfalls just before the park was closing so we decided that it would be best to press on.

The last time Josh and I had climbed this waterfall we had done it from the other side of it, which provided a much more user friendly experience, though it had still been strenuous. But Josh, for reasons unbeknown to me, decided that he knew that way to the top of the waterfall and thus me and my sister should follow behind him. There was absolutely no signage posted up to tell us which way to go – not with text, not even with an arrow so we trusted him with the directions implicitly, but when we started climbing up essentially what was a vertical rock face which required my hands and legs to get into positions that just did not seem physically possible, I knew that something was wrong.

Did Josh know where he was taking us??

Something inside of me told me that something was not right. Partly it was because Josh isn’t the best person for directions in this relationship: I am, and partly because I know that he is a little bit fond of getting himself and therefore me into dangerous situations. But he was insistent that this was the way, even when the foot holds became smaller and smaller and further more inconspicuous and even when my eyes could see no end to this evil climb. I was especially terrified for my sister, knowing that if any one of us did have a fall (and right now I could see that it was very possible if not inevitable because this trail was not meant for random tourists), then we would be in some serious shit because we couldn’t even describe where we were.

To top things off, as if they couldn’t get any worse, was the fact that it was rapidly getting darker and being that we were in the middle of borderline jungle, we had already started hearing sounds such as none of us had ever heard in our lives and apart from us, there wasn’t anybody else around.

What kind of sound was that? A silverback gorilla perhaps??

After an especially hairy part in the climb, which required us to grab onto nonexistent rocks buried within the soil in order to hoist ourselves up, my sister had finally had enough. She said she couldn’t go further and I agreed. We seemed to be going deeper and deeper into the jungle and we didn’t even know if there was another crossing. We could just be climbing further and further then how would we get back down??

Alas, when I told Josh I did not think it wise to go any further because I knew for a fact that he was just “chancing it” and didn’t actually know whether there was a way down that way at all, he seemed positively gleeful. He was actually enjoying this! Josh was taking pleasure from our pain!

Rage and Fear

The emotions were rage and fear. My rage and my sisters fear. My fury was growing as Josh, grinning from ear to ear, tried in earnest to convince us to keep going. But my sister could not go any further and I did not want to go further because I knew that he didn’t know where the bloody hell he was taking us!! Sweat was streaming down my face at this point and my thighs were literally shaking they were being put under such pressure. I did not want to scramble further into the darkening jungle just to satisfy his boyish danger fantasies and I did not want to be responsible for anyone of us having an accident which to be completely honest, would not have been me but probably him or my sister because I was far too enraged to fall!

The biggest concern of all was that if we went any further we wouldn’t be able to get back down and that wasn’t something that I was prepared to chance especially since I couldn’t see anybody else attempting this climb but us.

Thankfully, Josh agreed to go on ahead to have a peek up the waterfall for himself to see if indeed I was right and there was no reasonable way up and finally he agreed that we should divert our journey and go across the waterfall instead, via the way of the protruding rocks which the stream was rushing over. Below that was a vertical drop but trust me when I say this was the best way down.  

One by one, we gingerly made our way over the rocks, which required a lot of skill, patience and confidence – and since there was some algae on the rocks we took our shoes off to avoid slipping.

All in all it was a horrendous experience and despite Josh’s enjoyment of the scenario I can assure you that there was nothing funny about it!!

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Big Buddha 

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Numuang Waterfalls

The following day, after the trauma of the waterfall experience my sister and I decided that we were very much in need of a spa treatment so we booked one at a resort that was nearby and we took ourselves off to Chaweng where we had a walk through the main road, which had an abundance of retail shops and markets, where both Josh and my sister were seduced into buying watches (fakes of course but very good ones!), and after that we started discussing having a spa treatment at one of the many spa’s on the high street. Another thing Thailand is renowned for, asides from their amazing cuisine, Muay Thai and famous nightmarkets are their spa’s, which they have literally hundreds of from bargain basement to ultra luxury.

You can get one in someone’s home, at your hotel, on the beach, and in many many spa’s on the road of varying quality but though Chaweng wasn’t somewhere that I would choose to walk the street looking for one necessarily (because it was a tad bit tacky), It DID have lots of spa’s and I saw nearly all of them occupied with Westerners getting a rub down before or after their night out so I chose the most luxurious and cleanest looking one that I could find and all 3 of us booked ourselves in to have an hour and a half worth of treatments. Such a thing would be unheard of in London as it was approaching 12:00 am midnight at Dusit Spa, which was when they closed. Alas the Thai people are extremely hardworking and are always accommodating so of course asking for 3 massages at 12:00 am midnight was no trouble for them at all!

We were whisked inside and almost 2 hours later – 2:00 am in the morning, we emerged refreshed and feeling limbo. My sister and I had gone for a spa package and had had both a facial and a massage and in comparison to all of my experiences in UK spa’s, the treatments here are far superior and need I say FAR FAR cheaper!!

It seems completely criminal to me that when you go to a spa in the UK, even some of the best ones simply cannot give you a proper massage. It’s almost as if you are being tickled such is the pressure they give you. It’s rubbish! And another thing is that masseuses seem to pass onto you what they themselves are feeling so for instance if they are feeling tired then they will give you a “tired massage” and if they are feeling lazy then you will get a “lazy massage”, but here in Thailand, the quality of the treatments is pretty consistent, so you feel like you always get your moneys worth, even if you’ve only spent £5 for an hours massage on the beach!

Unbelievable. Needless to say, we very much enjoyed our midnight massage and we certainly did need it after our horrendous experience at the waterfall the day before!

The following day we had booked ourselves in for a long and luxurious massage at a more pricey establishment the Peace Tropical Spa in Bophut and then we were going to a meal at one of my favourite restaurants, the wonderful Zazen.

As expected, our massage at the Peace Tropical Resort, despite the torrential tropical rain, was divine. Better then I expected and infact the best I’d had since arriving in Koh Samui. The woman who gave me the Thai massage was expert at kneading out the knots in my back and calves until they had dissipated and I was eternally grateful. I was finding that as the day went on my body, and my thighs in particular, were aching more and more, which was directly related to the strenuous and stressful hike we had done at the waterfalls. In some respects I was glad, as with all of this fine dining, occasional meat eating and minimal exercise I was feeling a little guilty for how lazy I was being, but I knew that the exercise that I done yesterday was worth about 10 sessions in the gym because my body was telling me so!

Zazen

I was so glad when I found Zazen. When Josh and I went a couple of weeks ago we had loved it so much that we vowed to return and I thought what better time to do it then when my sister was here and on their traditional Thai dancing night which they had every Thursday and Sunday.

My sister, as expected was completely blown away by their elegant but dramatic decoration and the anticipation they had created with the long coconut tree lined entrance that was sparkling with hanging fairylights on the trees.

The magical entrance required a meander through their tropical gardens which were maze-like with their complexity with huge secret doors scattered throughout. Had we not been here before I’m sure we would have lost the way alas we managed to find our way to the restaurant where we were taken to our table to enjoy the show. In all fairness, the traditional dancing seemed pretty poor in comparison to what I had experienced in Bali, and there was a male dancer who was wearing very heavy makeup, including foundation and lipstick who was a little off putting but as far as the decor, ambience and food went: Top marks. My sister absolutely loved it and even enquired about their room rates! Lol. Needless to say, they were pricey.

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Crepes Suzette at Zazen

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The magical ambience of Zazen

The Jungle Club

According to the weather forecast, tomorrows weather was going to be good so I had booked a table at The Jungle Club, a restaurant/resort located high up in the mountains with magnificent views that overlooked the whole of Koh Samui, but as my sister was leaving in a couple of days she wanted to get one last trip to the beach so we decided to go that day and then go to the beach tomorrow.

The Jungle Club, I’d had no knowledge of when I had been here previously, so it came as a great delight and surprise to me to find that such a place existed here. Located up a very steep mountain, with completely unobstructed views, was a place that had some of the best views I’d ever seen, but seemed completely secret. It was as if only a handful of people knew about this place, but I was so glad I was one of them when I saw how beautiful and tranquil it was. From this height you could see the beach, the sea and the mountains, and because it was so high, there was absolutely no noise, not from neighbours, traffic or even nature. It was almost as if we were so high up that we were above nature. I could have slept there it was so peaceful.

I wasn’t sure that the food would be anything to write home about but I was elated to find, when they brought me my raspberry, coconut and pineapple juice and then my lunch: Chicken Massaman, that everything was fresh and delicious!!

I haven’t had a massaman since being in Thailand as it’s usually made with beef but I’m telling you this one was the best I’ve had. The chicken was on the bone so it retained all of the flavour and the sauce was a rich, creamy and spicy luxuriant curry that I will remember fondly for a very long time afterwards. Delicious!

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The staggering views from The Jungle Club

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Perve Town

It is most unfortunate to say but there is a distinctly perve quality to Thailand.

I’m sure it is FAR worse in places like Phuket and Bangkok but still, the persistence of sleazy behaviour, cheap women and gold diggers persist and I feel as though it has definitely increased since we were last here. Perhaps these women decided to move to Samui from Bangkok, as more Western men were holidaying here, who knows. All I know is it’s something that you don’t get used to as more and more women seem to be standing on the street corners outside “spa’s” or “massage parlours” wearing next to nothing and even though you don’t quite understand what they’re doing there, their body language is warning women not to approach. Infact, they don’t seem particularly bothered with their own Thai men either: the only thing they seem to want is Western men, and no doubt Western bank accounts, and they flaunt their sexuality openly to get them and of course the men lap it up.

This means that sex is being openly sold everywhere, whether discreetly or otherwise and almost every Western man has a Thai girl in tow, often much much younger then him. The disparity in both culture, age and language is very blatant and I feel that both the women and the men are taking advantage of each other. It doesn’t seem to be a relationship of equals in most cases and it is a sad (and a little sickening I have to say) thing to see. This kind of sleaziness is spoiling Thailand and no doubt vexing the humble local men.

We went to Chaweng beach again but it wasn’t anything like it was the last time we went when the sun was shining and we had beautiful cloudless skies. In reality I really wasn’t feeling it as I don’t see the point in going to the beach when the sea is choppy and it’s not hot alas it was my sisters final day at the beach and she wanted to make the most of it and make the most of it she did! She had a great time splashing about and flirting with the men folk 😉

Afterwards, we thought it would be criminal if we didn’t get a massage on the beach to end our time there so we went to the first 3 masseuses we could find and each got a massage. Unfortunately, after my massage at the Peace Resort, I knew that my masseuse didn’t stand a chance in impressing me, but since it was so cheap I allowed her, however what I did not appreciate, was the strong smell of Vick’s Vapour Rub that was seemingly enthused throughout the bedding and pillow that I was lying on. I was almost choking on the bloody thing. I asked for a Coconut Oil massage NOT a Vick’s Vapour Rub massage! I wasn’t too impressed with her capabilities and method either. 

William’s on a scam

This William guy (William Heinecke), the owner of the Anantara brand, the man with 40 vehicles, and multiple businesses, so we were told by his employee’s, is on a scam. You already know about the ridiculously priced Vacation Club scam that we were so unimpressed with that we decided to sting them twice for. You already know about the Tree Tops restaurant, which is far and beyond what any restaurant should be charging in Thailand, irrespective of whether or not they have a unique location. But what you don’t know is about William’s many franchises. William has franchises of various persuasions. He doesn’t just stick to what he does well: hotels and resorts, he also has retail franchises too, such as GAP and Burger King.

There is no coffee culture to speak of in Koh Samui, perhaps because it’s more of a holiday island, but the one coffee place we had managed to find was called The Coffee Club, an Australian coffee brand which has been franchised in Thailand by none other than greedy William. When we ventured in there to get some coffee’s we were horrified to find that we were being charged over £9 for a coffee and a hot chocolate. 9 freakin pounds! What a liberty! But it did not stop there as William also wanted your passport details in return for internet access! And he only allowed you a measly 45 minutes to use it too!

Gusto

The owners of Gusto are an Italian man and his wife based in Fisherman’s Village who served up delicious, authentic Italian fare beachside. Since I wasn’t eating meat I was surprised and delighted to find an abundance of Italian restaurants on Samui serving up wonderful pizza’s and pasta dishes that I could have to replace the meat dishes there was on seemingly every other menu. And in comparison to Dr Frog’s, which was a pretty disappointing experience overall, Gusto’s was great. The owners were very warm and friendly and had managed to decorate their restaurant in such a way that it really transported you straight to Italy. Since my sister is wheat intolerant it is difficult finding Italian restaurants in particular who cater for her allergy but thankfully Gusto was only too happy to oblige and we had a wonderful meal there where she was finally able to indulge in some gluten free pasta that actually tasted good!

Lulu’s

Unbelievably, we had been without a washing machine in each of our accommodations.

In our first one in Ubud, Bali, we had been staying in a villa where there was no washing machine, and in our second place, another villa – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, he had no washing machine and neither did the following 2 hotels where we had to pay for them to do our laundry and now in our 3 bedroom villa, the largest place we’ve stayed in yet, that sleeps up to 6 people, it too, has no washing machine either! How do they justify not having a washing machine in a villa for 6 people that is big enough to accommodate one? I was so desperate to have ultra clean clothes that I had literally been dreaming of putting on a wash as soon as I moved into the villa but no.

I had been hand washing my smalls and saving my dirty clothes up to take them down to the local laundrette (of which there were many on the high street). The shops on Mae Nam high street are really more like shacks, and it is really hard to decipher what it is they are actually selling in them as they all look pretty much the same so when I saw a big sign that said “Lulu’s Laundry” I told Josh to park up. This was where I would take my laundry. When I walked into the shack like shop I was immediately taken aback by how small and cramped it was in there. There were piles of clean, ironed clothes in plastic bags to my left and to my right was an old, small and lonely looking washing machine.

I was greeted warmly by a middle aged woman carrying more piles of clothes towards me from a room down the hall. It seemed as though this “shop” might actually be this woman’s home. Lulu was very friendly and I took to her immediately. There was something in her genuine nature that reminded me of my late Aunty Cynth.

When I went to pick up my clothes from Lulu the following day at first I couldn’t see her. It appeared as though she wasn’t in the shop. We had agreed a time for me to collect my washing however so I decided to wait but after a few minutes of waiting around and nobody arriving I started to think that maybe she was in her house somewhere. I began by calling her name a few times and then started slowly walking down the passageway, all the while calling out to her as I went, before I heard the sound of a Television. Soon I came to a room and there she was, fast asleep on a bed with the covers pulled over her. I called her name gently a few times and then she roused from what was obviously a very deep sleep. I felt awful. This woman had clearly been up all night and all day washing and ironing other people’s clothes and she was knackered!

What kind of an existence is this? That she should have to live in the same place as where she works because she’s too poor for anything else? And when I heard the price she was charging for my 2 bags full of dirty clothes I couldn’t believe my ears. It was CRIMINALLY CHEAP. Something like £2.50! She was getting paid far too less. After paying her and taking my clothes I vowed to return with more clothes for her to wash and tip her generously.

Unfortunately, the clothes that she had ironed so earnestly, were not completely clean and there were still stains left on clothes that I was hoping she would have got out but after meeting her, and seeing what she was using to clean the clothes I wasn’t bothered about the clothes anymore, I just felt bad for her. The woman needs a new washing machine!

The next time we went to Lulu’s I was with my sister and she was also shocked to see the conditions this woman was living and working in but Lulu lit up when she saw me and seemed touched when I tipped her double and she even gave me a hug so hopefully I brightened her day if even just a little bit.

It was my sister’s last day in Koh Samui tomorrow and I was determined that I was going to make her last dinner a memorable one. So far, in her short time with us here she had experienced multiple massages in various settings, seen breathtaking views at The Jungle Club, chilled out and listened to some great tunes at Beach Republic’s Sunday Brunch, indulged in some retail therapy in Fisherman’s Village nightmarket, been hiking up Numuang Waterfalls, was entertained by Thai dancers, firedancers on the beach and Muay Thai Fighting, was wined and dined at the finest establishments Samui has to offer Zazen and spent days of sun soaked indulgence on beautiful white sand beaches. So I felt she had a full experience of what Samui had to offer and tonight, I was taking her to Saffron, a traditional Thai restaurant located in the hillside of the Banyan Tree’s five star resort.

Saffron

What better entrance to Saffron’s hillside location overlooking their private bay, then by golf buggy? Josh and I had experience of being transported to a restaurant via golf cart a few times whilst in Thailand and it was always a nice experience. In the main because you know that since it requires a golf buggy to get to it, you are almost certainly going to be rewarded with wonderful views when you get there. And the journey to Saffron was as exciting as it was long, as the buggy went up steeper and steeper up the hill through mysterious, coconut tree lined inclines until finally we arrived at the restaurant.

We were greeted warmly by staff wearing authentic Thai uniform and taken to our table which did indeed have the wonderful views that were promised. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that along with the menu, which was a completely Thai menu (some of the restaurant menu’s are mixed with a few select Western dishes), the restaurant had been decorated with a distinctly Asian style and they were playing traditional Thai music. The food, when it came, was also very impressive – perfectly cooked and wonderfully flavoursome.

We all agreed that Saffron had been our favourite dining experience yet. To finish the evening off we were transported back to the bottom of the hill by golf buggy. What a night!

My sister almost missed her flight as we were having a leisurely lunch at The Coffee Club when we looked at the time and realised that she should have been at the airport around 20 minutes ago and she still hadn’t packed! Time had gone by so fast whilst she was here it seemed very cruel indeed that she should have to leave so soon. Thankfully, she did make her flight in time though and then we went home to start our own evacuation procedure as we were leaving the island of Samui to go to our next destination in Chiang Mai in just a couple of days time.

We returned home to no internet so we had to go back to greedy William’s coffee shop to use the measly 45 minutes he gave to check us into our flights, communicate with our next host regarding our arrival time, plan our route to Tree Tops, which we were going to tomorrow,  and our trip to to the pier as we were going to Koh Phangan the day after, book our taxi to the airport and inform Khun Tor about our lack of wifi situation at the villa. All in 45 minutes. To say it was stressful was an understatement but we done it.

Tree Tops

Tonight was supposed to be the night to end all nights. Tree Tops was the restaurant on the island that everyone was talking about. It had won awards, was in all of the best publications touted as being one of the most unique dining experiences on the island and was charging a ridiculously extortionate price to dine there. Tree Tops, as with most of the places that Josh and I had frequented, was basically a honeymoon destination, as it was far too fancy and far too expensive for the average couple, alas we knew that we would not be going to Tree Tops either if we didn’t have the vouchers so generously given to us by Anantara. The situation with William and his greedy ways, had backfired on him terribly as chancers like us was going to use his gift voucher offer to pay for our entire meal at the Tree Tops as we were determined not to give him a penny!

I was expecting big things from this place. Of course I was. They were charging European prices and I had already been to some of the best restaurants on the island who were charging far less and were comparable to some of the best restaurants in Europe. We had the anticipation of waiting for this day to arrive for a couple of weeks now and had timed it perfectly to coincide with good weather and one of our last meals on the island.

When we arrived at the Anantara in Chaweng, which was where the Tree Tops restaurant was located, we were taken to their “sky bar”, an elevated bar area that overlooked their immaculate grounds below. There we had a cocktail and a sparkling wine, before being shown to our table, located with our own private treehouse that was accessible by a wooden candlelit staircase. We were informed by our private butler that because we had booked in advance the best table in the restaurant had been reserved for us. The view from our spacious treehouse which was above the trees and jutted out over the tropical gardens below, had a perfectly serene view of the beach, sea and mountains and the treehouse itself had been decorated very tastefully with comfortable wooden high backed chairs and gold lanterns. Undoubtedly, it was lovely but was I blown away? No, I’m afraid to say I was not. 

We decided to dine from their “candlelight degustation” menu which was their 5 course meal that came with an accompanying 5 course wine option and cost almost 4,000 baht per person, which is the equivalent to about £100 per person. We knew then that we were going to have to pay William for the privilege as our gift vouchers only totalled £180 and the meal alone was costing more. Nonetheless, we looked forward to the arrival of our food as I had specifically eaten less in order to accommodate it!

Firstly they gave us a shot each, but I still had some of my sparkling wine left so when the first wine and course arrived I started to get a little concerned because rather than giving me a little taster they had given me a full large glass of wine. However I was impressed, more with the wine I have to say, which was a Sauvignon Blanc which went with the salmon perfectly.

By the time the second course had arrived I had already been to the toilet once, which required a pretty treacherous walk in my high heels up and down steep wooden stairs with a low balcony from our treehouse. I figured that if I didn’t go to the toilet and flush out these alcoholic toxins there was a real danger of me getting very tipsy indeed. With the arrival of the second and third course I was getting more and more intoxicated. The food portions were minimal, and though cooked well, they were not sufficient both in portion size and quality to stave off the effects of the alcohol which were taking hold of me. However, despite the fact that I am not a big alcohol drinker, I like to think that I’m reasonable knowledgeable when it comes to good quality wine and these wine pairings were excellent.

For the first time perhaps, I was enjoying the wine more then the food, hence why I was draining each and every large glass they brought me and then wobbling to the toilet afterwards to drain my rapidly expanding bladder. I was now getting drunk. This I knew because the intensity of my toilet needs and my inability to walk straight had me genuinely concerned that I was going to fall from this bloody treetop to my impending death. When the fourth course arrived I was officially drunk. My head was spinning, I was barely in control of my speech and I had tried to call my brother, my mum and my sister to warble nonsense to them down the phone, thankfully to no avail. The call did not connect.

The fifth and final course I enjoyed immensely because it was a wonderful chocolate, peanut and vanilla construction that had been presented perfectly with an accompanying wine to take me over the final edge. I was now DRUNK BEYOND BELIEF.

Thankfully, even though Josh had had the same menu as me and therefore the same wine, he was driving so he didn’t drink all of the wine they gave him but in my drunken stupor, after I had been to the toilet for the seventh time since arriving, and Josh was hit with another £70 in restaurant bill even after the £180 vouchers we gave them, I finally understood what had happened: Bloody William.

This man was determined to make as money as possible, needless to say at the expense of the hard working Thai people he employed since most of his establishments were located within Thailand, and from us, a couple seeking luxurious experiences in exotic locales at reasonable cost. But this was not reasonable. The thing I treasure about being sober, is my ability to think clearly and despite my drunken status, I was still aware of the nonsense I was talking, how I was walking etc, I just didn’t or couldn’t care to do any better. But even in my drunken state, I was aware that though the food was good, and the surroundings elegant, this was not my best dining experience in Thailand.

That award had to be given to Saffron. Or even Zazen. And they both were charging FAR FAR less. But their strategy here you see, was to ply people with alcohol so that they were unaware of this fact, and it might have worked perhaps if people were a little weaker of mind, but I knew that the wine, granted, was wonderful, it went with the food well and the food was good also, but it was not exceptional, and it was Mediterranean cuisine afterall, which let’s face it, cannot compete with Thai food when it’s done well.

I was drunk because they plied me with alcohol when I arrived – a sparkling wine, a shot and then a further 5 large glasses of wine within 3 hours but the food in its portion size was not equivalent to the amount of drink they gave me. Infact, I could have eaten more.

William was greedy but he could not fool me. Despite the fact that we had paid £70 extra which we were definitely not expecting, it was still a small price to pay for the experience, which was hilarious and I will remember for a long time afterwards.

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Tree Tops

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The view from our “treehouse”

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A chocolate extravaganza!

Koh Phangan

The one thing we had yet to do whilst being in Samui was visit one of the surrounding islands. Samui was a fantastic jumping off point as Thailand had other very beautiful islands within close reach with their own lovely beaches and sights and as yet we hadn’t seen any of them so we had booked a trip to Koh Phangan, one of the closer islands, located a mere 20 minutes ferry ride away, and the site of Thailand’s famous Full Moon party, a FULL ON party that thousands of revellers from the world over attended wearing day glo and all manner of tacky wares. Taking the ferry to Koh Phangan required us waking up around 6:00 am in the morning to catch the ferry at 7:30 am from the pier but not only was I feeling completely destroyed from the drunken night before but we had also both had a restless night due to yet another freakin tookay who seemed determined to scratch his way into our abode from the rooftop. It was unbelievably loud and got louder and louder until eventually we had to change rooms (again).

I’m telling you this tookay and gecko business was becoming the bane of my life!!

We were not interested in partying, what we were interested in was their beach, one of the best in Thailand we had been informed, so when we arrived at Koh Phangan pier we booked a taxi to take us straight there.

30 minutes later and we arrived at the beach. Naan Thong Beach, almost entirely deserted by the time we got there at 8:00 am in the morning! was a lovely beach, but I didn’t see how it was better than Chaweng. Despite it being completely devoid of the commercialism that Chaweng was notorious for, with no large hotels or beach clubs in sight, I didn’t see how it could be better then Chaweng when the sea in Chaweng was bluer and the sand whiter. But as the day grew on and the sun grew stronger, casting it’s gaze on the bay, I finally I began to see the magical and unique beauty of this place.

Untouched, unspoilt, and beautifully natural with shallow, transparent coloured waters,  surrounded by mountains on both sides with a view of the misty horizon and rocks protruding from the sea, with hammocks swaying lazily between coconut trees, quiet and tranquil, finally: I understood. In Naan Thong I had found a paradise and by the end of our time there, after I had spent a hugely enjoyable time splashing in the waves, sunbathing on the rocks and burying my feet deep in it’s soft, powdery white sands, I understood: This was my true sanctum.

Tomorrow we move onto to our fourth and final destination in our travels: Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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True Sanctum in Koh Phangan 

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Week 1 in Koh Samui, Thailand

Week 1 in Koh Samui, Thailand

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We arrived in Koh Samui, Thailand with a great sigh of relief.

Our long transfer between Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport left us with literally minutes to spare before our plane took off and we were convinced that we would miss our flight.

We had no idea when we booked our flights to Koh Samui via Bangkok that the transfer between it’s airports would be so long and during the what felt like almost 2 hour transfer we grew increasingly more and more relieved that we hadn’t chosen Bangkok as one of our travel destinations because from what we could see Bangkok looked utterly horrendous.

Bangkok was a city that was both noisy, busy, dirty and absolutely HUGE. Not at all what we were looking for.

2 years ago Josh and I had visited the Thai island of Koh Samui and had fallen in love with the tropical paradise that seemed to offer alot more then just stunning beaches. A true taste of Thailand, it was a great spot from which to visit the many other neighbouring islands, see ancient Buddhist temples, sample the world famous Thai cuisine, meet with endangered animals, languish on palm fringed beaches, and experience the centuries old wellness traditions that see Thailand as having some of the best spa’s in the world. Indeed, Koh Samui appeared to have it all.

We have never been the slightest bit interested in visiting Bangkok because it sounded as if it was the seedy part of Thailand. We wanted to experience a much more natural environment and see a more traditional way of life so we had chosen Koh Samui as our first stop in Thailand where we would be staying for a month and then we were off to Chiang Mai, the magical, spiritual place in the mountains.

After our experience with miserable Lena The Cleaner at Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin in Bali, I was a little concerned about what we might encounter when we arrived at our new villa in Thailand. In Canggu, we had been staying at a brand new luxury hotel, and being only the second people to ever stay there it was ultra, ultra clean with no creepy crawlies whatsoever. And now that I had firsthand experienced of people essentially LYING about the quality of their establishments on Airbnb I had cause for concern because I knew that I would not be able to deal with any frowsiness or nastiness therefore I was praying that the description and pictures that had been posted online were accurate.

Our 3 bedroom private villa was located in Mae Nam, in the middle of Santiburi Golf Course – Samui’s largest Golf Club. From what we could see of the pictures the villa looked not just huge (it was over 4 thousand square feet!) but lovely too, with lots of beautiful and original features, it’s very own infinity pool, balconies from the bedrooms overlooking the surrounding forest and mountains, a sala (a traditional Thai open pavilion where you can sit and be protected from the sun and rain), tropical gardens and an out-house, where the master bedroom was located with it’s own luxurious outdoor bathroom.

When we had found it we were immediately seduced by the spaciousness, and how clean and immaculate it looked. Also my sister was going to be coming to Thailand to stay with us for just under 2 weeks (yay!) so we knew that we had to get somewhere reasonably big and this villa comfortably housed 6 people so we had plenty of space!

We were picked up from the airport by the villa manager called Tor (yeah I know, lol) who seemed lovely and very professional (not at all like miserable Lena the Cleaner!)

I knew that we were staying in a private residence that was essentially on the grounds of a golf course but this still did not prepare me for the long drive through the forest to get to our villa.

When we turned off of the main road onto the windy road that was to be our refuge for the next month I began to get excited. What an entrance! With gigantic coconut trees lining the path on both sides and the sunshine streaming through the trees it was all very wild and dramatic. Round and round the windy road we went, with the forest getting denser and denser as we went. We passed a few small houses on the way, but the more we drove the less habitation we saw and then I could have sworn that I saw an animal amongst the trees – it looked to me like a bull or something. What kind of location is this? I’m being taken to I began to wonder.

Minutes later and we were still driving through this jungle of a place and I began to get concerned as it dawned on me that Josh and I would have to do this journey everyday! And since Josh was so into this scooter business at the moment then we would have to do this journey everyday on a scooter in the dead of night as this place had sporadic lighting.

Almost 6 minutes later and we arrived at our villa and by then we were so deep into the forest that I couldn’t for the life of me remember the way back!

Our villa thankfully, came as a pleasant surprise. Located down the end of a quiet, residential tree lined street, it had an immediate feel of calm and exclusivity about it. Despite being so deep into the forest, there were clearly many other foreigners who had bought land here and had built their own villa’s in this very remote and peaceful location. You really were surrounded on all sides here by thousands and thousands of Coconut trees that seemed to go on for miles and miles. All you could see where Coconut trees, and apart from the roads that meandered to the various houses scattered among it there were no other roads, therefore no road noise.

And despite the lack of a sea view, it had a magnificent view of the surrounding hills and mist covered mountains that was spellbinding. I needn’t have worried about frowsiness thankfully because the villa was immaculate. Clearly belonging to an older European couple, the villa was crammed full of oriental art and statues, plus it had books for days! The owners had left us a manual, which was both comprehensive and funny, giving us lots of information about the house and the surrounding area.  They said that they lived there for 3 months of the year and we could tell because the place felt very homely though the decor was perhaps a tad dated.

When we arrived we also met the cleaners who had done an amazing job of cleaning the villa and had left us with fresh flowers in almost every room and a bowl full of fresh fruit and a fridge full of drinks to welcome us. And we did feel very welcome.

We took a stroll around the villa and were pleased to find the 2 double bedrooms in the main house immaculately clean with towell decorations and flowers on the beds, plus they both had en suites and balconies with stunning views of the mountains. I was sure my sister was going to be very pleased with either!

The large kitchen was open plan and lead out to the tropical gardens on one side and a generously appointed infinity pool on the other. Seating too was abundant, with a dining table in the kitchen, comfortable sofa’s in the front room, another dining table outside by the pool, cushioned chairs in the sala, chairs on the balcony outside our room, sunbeds beside the pool and chairs in all of the bedrooms. We were literally spoilt for choice when it came to where we chose to luxuriate ourselves!

Our master bedroom was particularly lovely. It had floor to ceiling windows on all sides and though slightly overlooked on one side due to it partially facing a neighbours poolside it was protected by foliage, yet still felt wonderfully private and luxurious. It was HUGE, with a dark wood four poster bed and carefully chosen pieces of art signifying it’s grandeur. But of course for me being the bath lover that I am, and certainly my main reason for me wanting this villa in particular, was the bathroom.

Double doors lead us into a marble floored bathroom which was spacious with his and hers sinks, a seperate shower and a glass partition that lead outside to a stunning outdoor bathtub with a surrounding wall, pebbled flooring and a view of the tall coconut trees swaying in the breeze.

Conjuring up an evening outside in the bathtub by candlelight with the scent of orchids and frangipani’s growing freely in our gardens I felt at ease.

Yes, I considered. I think we will be happy here.

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Our 3 bedroom villa with seperate master suite and infinity pool 

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Double doors leading into our elegant bathroom

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The Master Suite

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An outdoor bathtub (yay!)

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Pool Access, just like at Sense, but here, we have it all to ourselves!

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Balcony view from our villa 

Skeeter Syndrome 

The next morning I awoke to an intense throbbing and itchy pain on my buttocks, my thighs and my legs. The mosquitoes had DESTROYED ME. Realising that when the cleaners were here preparing for our arrival they must have left the doors and windows wide open, the mosquitoes probably sensing new blood (i.e me because they never seem to go after Josh!) had basically ravaged me and when I awoke to see how many times this abominable mosquitos (or indeed mosquitoes) had bitten me I was left in shock. They had literally bitten me about 20 times!!

After Josh checked me over properly he found that it was even worse then we had initially thought – some of my bites had swollen up and were hot to the touch – particularly the one on my thigh. I have had this reaction before to mosquitoe bites – it appears that I am allergic to them. I had felt really hot in the night, partly it was because it was hot (our ceiling fan was not working and we had turned the AC off), and partly it was because I was uncomfortable in this new place. It always takes me at least a few days to acclimatise particularly when staying in a place so WILD.

Since we had encountered so many abominable creatures in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (such as bats, snails, gecko’s and spiders), and caterpillars and even cockroaches in Pumpkin Village, I was on edge at what might lurching in the darkness. Also, I had heard strange noises in the middle of the night. It sounded like it might be a gecko. For this reason I had probably been sweating like woah, and therefore the mosquitoes had probably gone into into a feeding frenzy (since they are attracted to body heat).

The pain and discomfort on my legs and buttocks, despite me using bite soothing cream did not appear to be improving and instead some of the bites began to become inflamed and I struggled to sleep because of the discomfort. These buzzards had eaten me alive and now I had to sleep on my back to try and get some reprieve.

What is the bloody point of mosquitoes anyway?! I ask you.

 Josh done some further research online and he encountered a symptom of mosquitoe bites called Skeeter Syndrome which he immediately diagnosed me with. Skeeter Syndrome is a severe reaction to the saliva from a mosquitoe which produces an enlarged swelling of the infected area (check), that itches, is painful and is hot to the touch (check, check, check). That’s it! Doctor Josh, lol, prescribed me some antihistamine tablets and hydrocortisone cream to bring down the swelling, plus we got some salt to add to a bath to reduce the swelling also which we picked up from Boots the Chemist would you believe?! Yes, there is a Boots here and they have a Tesco’s too which is where we’ve been doing all of our shopping. It’s great! lol

Bathtub Betty

Now that I have been diagnosed with an allergy to mosquitoes we need to be especially careful about me getting bitten. In our villa we have patio doors with internal mesh sliding doors that you can use when you want a bit of fresh air with no creatures (always then!) and once we had decided to sample our luxurious bathtub we made sure to buy lemongrass scented candles (since we couldn’t find any citronella), and have our bath in the early evening before the mosquitoes emerged to try and find their human dinner. The bathtub was big and comfy, and having the gentle breeze kissing your skin, with the sounds of nature whilst you sit in a steaming hot bath with a rose scented bath bomb is second to none.  The bath was lovely but I still think they should have put mesh over the top as creatures can still fly on it and that is not the most relaxing of experiences. At Pumpkin Village we also had an outdoor bathroom with mesh covering and that seemed to work well (mind you they had an infestation of caterpillars!)

*sigh* this wildness really is a challenge!

Fishermans Village

Fishermans Village is a popular, pedestrianised area in Koh Samui, a short drive away from our villa in Mae Nam, with a collection of some of the best restaurants and boutique retail shops on the island. It’s location alongside Bophut beach, featuring free nightly fire dancing entertainment and it’s famous Friday “night market” where locals sold their arts and crafts and street food, made it one of the most popular places for tourists on the whole island. When we had visited 2 years ago, we liked it so much that we visited it a few times and it was always busy and vibrant. Plus, because alot of the sellers were locals you could pick up some really unique handmade gifts for cheap. There was a particular restaurant that we had discovered whilst there which done really good food so we decided that we’d go back there for dinner.

Barracuda was a restaurant in the middle of Fishermans Village offering deliciously fresh seafood and since Josh and I are trying to stay away from meat, the abundance of fresh fish on their menu suited us just fine. When we visited again we were delighted to find that the food was just as fresh and the menu just as original as we’d found it 2 years ago.

Josh’s Birthday 

It was Josh’s birthday the following day and I had booked a spa day for the both of us and then a wine tasting experience and dinner at The Dining Room, a restaurant in Lamai that we had discovered in Thailand in our previous trip and had fallen in love with.

If you’re wondering whether we have spent all our times in luxury spa’s then you wouldn’t be completely wrong as this would be our 8th spa treatment since being in SE Asia. Not bad at all!

Anantara, the giant of a hotel brand that had stunning resorts all over Asia, was somewhere that I knew would be right up Josh’s and my street. It was both mysterious  and exotic, decorated in a luxurious and unique asian inspired style and heavily influenced by nature so displayed by their use of local wood, distinctive lily ponds and coconut tree lined resorts in far away locales. This is where I had chosen to take Josh for his birthday, during which he would experience almost 3 hours of their spa treatment aptly named the “Gulf of Siam”. Comprising a shower, foot bath, royal thai massage, foot reflexology and an Anantara signature facial after which he was then served a light snack, sounded perfect and I was sure that this, combined with the unique location of the spa amongst a tranquil paradise like tropical gardens, with lily ponds, water fountains, coconut and palm trees, and secret passageways would make for an exceptional experience of pure luxury and abundant relaxation. And I was right. We were taken to a large private walled suite within the gardens where we were pampered to within an inch of our lives.

I had chosen their “Journey of Siam” spa package which was just over 2 hours long and featured a floral foot ritual, herbal thai steam, shower, coconut body scrub, another shower and then a royal thai massage and refreshment and I was utterly knackered by the end of it. Each treatment was equally relaxing and equally luxurious, and the showers amongst the gardens made me feel like I was in the Herbal Essences/Timotei advert again!

They used a blend of wonderfully scented natural ingredients that just soaked right into my skin. I could FEEL the quality. My therapist seemed to know every trick in the Thai book of massages. And in my experience they are the best at it. Afterwards I felt as though I was floating in the air and I was so content and literally falling asleep that at one point I think I may have even dribbled! lol.

Josh on the other hand was literally on the verge of a coma when he returned from his 3 hour pamperation. He even LOOKED different. His body and feet had been massaged to within an inch of their achy lives and his face had been transformed into a shiny new (and perhaps younger) version of his self. I hadn’t told him beforehand what they would be doing to him but all the while he said that he was just thinking to himself: How long can this possibly go on for? lol.

I will admit that it did feel like a deliciously long time but I guess you get what you pay for!

Whilst we were there, we took the opportunity to enquire about Anantara’s Vacation Club – essentially a timeshare for staying in their luxury resorts worldwide. Since we were now convinced about the Anantara brand based on the standard and style of their hotels and the locations of their resorts (they were based througout Asia though they also had a few locations in Africa, and the Middle East also), we took them up on their offer to attend a presentation to promote their various “packages”. Really, we were already half convinced that they were going to come with a request for an extortionate amount of money to opt in that we had no intention of paying but we thought we would hear them out anyway and besides, they were offering free vouchers (worth quite alot of money) to use in their spa’s, select excursions and various high end restaurants on the island whether we did or did not sign up so it was a no brainer!

It was a wonderful experience at Anantara but unfortunately it didn’t leave us much time to go home and change before we had to leave for our dinner reservation and it didn’t look like we would make the wine tasting.

On the way to dinner we remembered seeing a sign for a “Shortcut to Lamai” which was where the hotel/restaurant was located. As I was keen to make the wine tasting that was happening an hour before dinner I agreed that we should definitely take the shortcut which was off of the main road. But little did we know what this shortcut consisted of.

Not more then 5 minutes in we start creeping up a steep incline, it was almost as if we were climbing a mountain it was so steep. I didn’t sign up for this! I scream at Josh and we just about make it over one incline and down a sharp hill that we can’t even see over the dashboard and up another extremely steep mountainous like terrain. I felt like I was in the krypton factor or something – some kind of bloody assault course or a ride in Alton Towers. When we looked ahead all we could see was sharp turns and steep drops on both sides of the road. It was by this time getting darker and darker and we had extremely poor visibility due to the insistence of the Thai authorities of not providing lighting in these kinds of remote areas. It was utterly petrifying. A part of me, a big part, was utterly convinced that we were going to fall to our deaths either because of our gears giving up the ghost and rolling backwards to our deaths or by falling over the side of these narrow and extremely sharp mountain ranges. And since we were not driving a 4 x 4 this was a very possible outcome. It was tense. Thankfully we arrived there in one piece but it was not without a calm and skilled level of driving by Josh.

When we got to the restaurant and told them about our journey the waiter basically told us that it was far too dangerous to drive that way at night, alas there was absolutely NO SIGNAGE to tell us this before we embarked on the perilous journey, or even to inform us of the steep inclines of the road (i.e mountain!).

We decided we would not be going back that way no matter how long it took us how to get home. We were very keen to stay alive.

Dinner was wonderful. And as special as we remembered. The Dining Room is the restaurant of a boutique hotel on Lamai beach called Rocky’s Boutique Resort, which in my opinion is a rubbish name that certainly does not convey the unique position it has on the beach that is both romantic and glamorous at the same time. Thousands of red lanterns hang from the surrounding trees and chairs are set up with huge cushions with tables and twinkling lights on the precipice of a rock face where you can hear and see the waves of the Andaman Sea gently lapping against the shore. Food is a mixture of French and Thai inspired modern cuisine which is delicious and the service is both professional and friendly at the same time. Since we had been there before two years ago I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be as magical as before but it was the perfect place to spend Josh’s birthday. We sat there reminiscing whilst reflecting on our time in SE Asia so far and how much we were looking forward to the future.

We spent Christmas Eve at Fishermans Village where we watched fire dancers on the beach from a brand new restaurant/beach bar called Coco Tams, which was playing simply AMAZING house music and serving great pizza’s (pizza’s that rivalled Spaccanopoli in Ubud even!). The fire dancers perform nightly on the Bophut beach, and it’s completely free to all. Spinning sticks engulfed in flames, blowing flames sky high and creating a fireworks like display of sparkles with unbelievable care and skill was awe inspiring. And being it was Christmas Eve it felt even more special.

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An abundance of nature and tranquility at Anantara Bophut

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The scene is set at Rocky’s Boutique Resort 

BAP HIM!

That night when we returned home from dinner we found our resident gecko (who doesn’t deserve a name because I didn’t like him), scurrying around our bathroom like a madman. Clearly the gecko was utterly petrified of us and wished to find a place to hide from us and I can well appreciate this, but the fact remains that I’m bloody scared of him too and I do not want to see a small brown lizardy thing scurrying about my bedroom quarters, oozing white tipped brown poo from his scaly bum, and discarding his crusty scaled tail (as they do) as he goes! I’m not into it!

I understand his strategy: He wishes to seek shelter in our abode whilst trapping small insects in the easiest way possible. And he’s completely harmless to humans – he doesn’t bite, scratch, pounce, anything. Perhaps he’s even safer then many other types of household pets such as dogs and cats who can be vicious or carry diseases but the difference is I choose for them to be in my abode. I didn’t choose him. He snuck himself in and scared the bajeezers out of me when I was trying to brush my teeth, then again when I was going to the toilet in the middle of the night, when I was trying to sleep but was rudely awoken by his distinctive clicking sound, or when I grabbed for the towell that he was hiding under after having a shower.

I do not like this element of surprise and I do not like the idea of him pooing his white tipped poo onto my head in the middle of the night. I want him gone! I tell Josh. Josh suggests that he trap him in the bathroom with a box and a broom and gently try to brush him into it, but this gecko doesn’t want to be swept. He wants to live in our abode but that will never do!

The gecko quickly scurries away and hides underneath the sink and after 10 minutes of clearing the whole bathroom and trying to coax him out of his hidey hole Josh eventually decides to give up this particular strategy. Instead, he suggest, I’ll wait for him to appear again and then I’ll BAP HIM!

Nooo! I say to him. I do not want you to BAP HIM! That’s evil! I want him to remain alive but I want him out of our abode. You’re going to have to find a way to get him out without hurting him. I feel sorry for him since we have closed every available entrance (for other creatures such as mosquitoes who might have been getting any ideas about setting up home here) and thus an exit (for him). He can’t get out even if he wanted to.

Josh says to me again that since the gecko is too fast it will be impossible to get him without BAPPING HIM so he plans to go ahead with his plan but he promises to just BAP HIM to stun him not to hurt him. Reluctantly I agree.

Since then we haven’t seen nor heard hide nor hair from the gecko. He must understand what BAP HIM means, lol.

 The Weather in Samui

Unfortunately we haven’t had fantastic weather since we’ve been here. It hasn’t rained but it has been overcast which hasn’t really made us feel inspired to go to the beach and I feel as though my tan is fading which will never do!

Nonetheless, we have been swimming in our private saltwater infinity pool at our villa and it has been wonderful. And we visited Cheong Mon beach, considered to be one of the best beaches in Samui for the firsttime too. We didn’t think it was all that when we saw it but perhaps that was partly because it didn’t seem to be that big, there was lots of children and it was overcast that day. Chaweng is the most popular beach in Samui because it’s huge, there are lots of beach bars and restaurants etc posted on it and it has some of the cleanest, clearest water and white sand. But because of this it also attracts hoardes of tourists, including lots of Brits but unfortunately, they are not looking the best.

In comparison to Bali, where everyone was healthy, tanned and lovely, the people who come to Thailand look decidedly bloated, and suspiciously red raw like a lobster. Perhaps they are spending far too much time in the sun, eating far too many pies and drinking far too many beers *sigh*.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day we spent at the beach as in the afternoon the clouds decided to clear and we experienced brilliant sunshine for a couple of hours. The beach wasn’t as busy as I remembered it being thankfully, and it was refreshingly devoid of hardly any mention of it being Christmas Day which suited us just fine. The Thai people do not celebrate Christmas so why should they make an exception for Westerners. Do we make exceptions for their religious/important holidays? No, of course not. So I very much enjoyed spending a day without having the commercialism of Christmas being rammed down my throat, the cheesiness of the songs and the tackiness of the decorations. I was very happy! We had a leisurely lunch at The Library, another Thai establishment well known for it’s original, contemporary designed hotel and more specifically it’s red coloured swimming pool which did look very inviting I must say. The food was delicious – we both had vegetarian green thai curry and it was fresh and very very tasty.

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Chaweng Beach

Zazen

The decision to spend our Christmas Dinner at Zazen (minus the actual Christmas menu like all good Thai hotels on Christmas Day) was in part because Zazen had been my original choice of where to take Josh for his birthday dinner before deciding on The Dining Room as it was special to both of us.  Zazen, along with The Dining Room, were both considered to be two of the most romantic restaurants in Koh Samui, and perhaps coincidentally they both featured the colour red prominently in their establishments.

Like Rocky’s, Zazen was also a hotel, spa and restaurant, and perhaps similarly to Anantara, they were all about creating an otherwordly type of experience by combining unique architecture, with natural materials, an exquisite and ultra luxurious Asian inspired decor, landscaped tropical gardens and an impressive entrance. And as it was Christmas Day, even though they were far too high end to be cheesy with out and out Christmas decorations, they still used the combination of twinkly lights to full effect by draping almost every tree in them in the leisurely and extremely long walk up to the main reception through the beautiful natural gardens.

By the time we made it to the restaurant both Josh and I were already sold. The place was simply magical.

But they had more for us. We went for a 6 course seafood menu, and each and every dish they brought us was beyond our expectations. The food, and in particular the prawns which were hands down the best prawns I have ever had in my entire life! was certainly prepared by the hands of a master chef. The prawns were the juiciest, the freshest and the moistest and most flavourful I have had. I don’t know how long they had been marinating in the sauce but goodness me!

The decoration too, was tasteful but simply festive and Josh and I had the pleasure of being sat next to a huge red hued Christmas tree which made it feel very festive indeed. Such an absolutely stunning, stunning place! I was so impressed with the service, the food and the restaurant and hotel itself that I have decided that when my sister arrives we’re going back!

When we returned home from dinner we made sure to Skype both of our families to with them a Merry Christmas. Funnily enough they have seen/heard more from us since we’ve been away!

This Christmas in Thailand has been so special, so very relaxing and stress free that the only thing that has been missing has been our families. If they had been here then I believe we would have easily reached perfection (and we didn’t even exchange gifts!)

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Magical Zazen

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STori x

Week 7 in Bali

Week 7 in Bali

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The photoshoot at our hotel that we were asked to participate in went pretty well in so far as it was quick and wasn’t too taxing.

We didn’t know it at the time (though perhaps we should have known judging by the dithering antics of the photographer) but the photographer was an amateur. He didn’t really give us any direction during the shoot and considering neither of us were professional models that wasn’t very cool. In the end we just done the best that we could to try to convince the camera that I enjoyed fooling around on the inflatable gold swan (I did not), and that we both found the food that was presented to us delicious (we didn’t).

Nonetheless, we looked forward to receiving the images to provide memories of our travels in Bali.

When we received the photo’s back we were a little disappointed with them as the quality of the images was poor. The resolution on the camera seemed very low – infact we could have taken much better images on our iphones! Considering these images are going to be used on their website and other promotional material (we even had to sign a waiver agreement), I don’t see why they didn’t employ someone with a better camera and better skills to take the pictures but hey ho. Of course, they’re not all bad.

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The Golden Swan and Me 

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Josh and me with our floating platter of food outside our Lagoon Pool Access Room

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Happiest on the beach 

We have had a few issues since staying/living at this hotel. My main one I have mentioned before: The food, which is questionable to say the least, but another pet peeve has been the inconsistency of service.

Since we are still the only couple at this hotel (well we had a family here for 2 days and another couple have just arrived), it seems to me that we should receive exceptional and consistent service the whole time we’re here, but while the manager skives off, he has left us with a whole host of staff who it seems, are on their first jobs straight out of catering college. They are eager and friendly but what they aren’t is efficient. And they don’t seem to employ the gift of common sense particularly either.

Some days at breakfast we will receive a pot of tea, other days just a cup. Some days magically pool towels will appear rolled up on the sunbeds, other times we won’t get a sausage.

Occasionally we will receive a food menu to choose from at breakfast, or our waiter will write our order down, other times a piece of paper with multiple choice food options will be presented with a pen for us to indicate what we wish to eat.

Most times the pool bar isn’t open for business (despite the huge sign indicating that it is). But what IS consistent, and infact highly predictable, is the question asked every morning of us by the waiter who it seems simply must know where we are going that day. This is despite us repeating the same answer each and everyday of “we don’t know yet, we will decide later”. Guaranteed, this simple answer does not suffice and it does not dissuade him from asking us with a highly predictable regularity and sense of urgency it seems.

Our answer, given to him every morning without fail does not indicate to him AT ALL that a) it’s none of his business and perhaps we don’t want to tell him or b) we are quite spontaneous and do what we want as and when the mood takes us or depending on the weather. None of this occurs to the man. He just stands there with an urgent look on his face as if our answer has the meaning of life or death to him. It is VERY odd and EXTREMELY annoying.

Another thing that is consistent is the music played at breakfast every morning. It is Bob. And by Bob I don’t mean Dylan, I mean Marley. These people rinse out Bob Marley’s album like there’s no tomorrow. Initially, when the distinctive drum beat for “Is this Love” made it’s entrance on cue whilst I was raising my granola parfait heaped spoon to my mouth I assumed it was some kind of announcement of my presence at breakfast. Really.  Well you’d be surprised what simple minded ways people find to try to let you know that they’re feeling your culture and I remember in Thailand that they were obsessed with my braids and with Bob Marley in particular.

So it didn’t offend me, I just found it a little amusing is all. But after about the 11th day in a row of hearing the album playing it was starting to jarr a little bit. Thankfully that Bob Marley album is a classic so it didn’t jarr too much but why on earth must they rinse the same album over and over again??

Well I was left speechless this morning when at breakfast there was two car loads of Indonesian officers wearing their uniform also at breakfast and I was convinced that the staff wouldn’t be brave enough to take off their traditional Indonesian music to put on Bob Marley but they did! And the funniest thing of all was one of the officials started singing along to it, tapping his feet! Well I never!

Because of the poor standard of food at our hotel I’m ashamed to admit that we go out for food every afternoon and every night without fail. We do not want to find ourselves in a position where we have to eat the food at the hotel as it is a woeful affair. The only meals we eat here is breakfast and even then I only have granola.

Shopping in Seminyak

We went for brunch in Seminyak for a change. There’s so many great, healthy cafe’s around Canggu that we really haven’t had a reason to leave it but we thought it would be nice to go back to Sisterfields as we had been really impressed with the food the last time we went there. Seminyak wasn’t as busy as we remembered it being, undoubtedly this was because of the volcano situation that was still ongoing. The reports of this volcano which thus far hadn’t done any damage at all, was scaring people off the island, an island which depends almost exclusively on tourism.

For them, this natural disaster was an absolute disaster and even though they had taken all of the necessary precautions to make sure there would be no fatalities this time, somehow the media had taken the opportunity to make it seem as though everywhere in Bali was in imminent danger. The exclusion zone and surrounding area this applied to yes,  but not here.  Nonetheless, it had been successful in keeping literally thousands of people away potentially crippling small business owners and guaranteeing that we had this brand new hotel to ourselves.

Josh and I thought back to Pumpkin Village and Jihwa, who had been a wonderful host, we wondered how she was faring considering she was running a boutique hotel, with only 5 villa’s in it and being in Ubud, was closer to the volcano site then we were. I hoped her business wasn’t being affected by all of this because she had only been open for 5 months! – No idea what it is with us and newly opened hotels!

We had brunch at Sisterfields which was really nice and then I went off on my own to see what I could find in the shops while Josh stayed there working. Technically, apart from short forays to coffee shops and the like, this was our first time apart. We are always better together! lol. Alas, I wanted to shop and he did not so I went on my own and before I had even turned the corner I heard a group of fairly old Indonesian men call me out of my name, trying to get my attention by calling out “Blackie”

Now I did not have the luxury nor the desire to find out whether this was meant to be an insult or said in fondness, but I did not appreciate being yelled at across the road and I found the name “Blackie” ignorant if not insulting. Nonetheless, I very much enjoy being a “Blackie” and since it was clear that they really wanted to get my attention I could only take it as a compliment. On the way back from shopping during which I picked up 2 dresses from Bamboo Blonde they were sitting in the same exact spot yelling at a bunch of white girls who were across the road too so they clearly had nothing better to do but chat nonsense allday! FOOLS.

Overall, my experience here as a black woman in Indonesia has been pleasant. I get the occasional looks but as a people they seem very tolerant and not as ignorant as other nations I have come across in my travels and of course there is the thing about me modelling to advertise a Balinese hotel! It is a different experience being a single woman walking on her own though, and I’m sure that Josh has shielded me from that just with his presence on a few occasions, but still, I would say that it is very safe to be a woman here, a woman of colour and a woman travelling on her own. Safer then even Thailand perhaps.

We decided that it would be a beach day so we took ourselves down to La Brisa to work. The tunes were pumping, the surfers surfing, and we got talking to a couple from Las Vegas who had just arrived the night before and began telling us about their life in Las Vegas and about their travel plans. They were nice but the girl was pretty much telling us her whole life story and in the end she was draining both of our energy resources with her nonstop chat. Even her boyfriend left her to it, and after 30 minutes of it we decided to do the same!

When we got back to our hotel we spotted the beginnings of a stupendously beautiful sunset so we jumped on the scooter and took it the short 30 second ride down to the beach! That was the benefit of being where we were – being surrounded by miles of emerald green rice paddies, hills and valleys but with a view of the sea being only walkable distance. When we were living in Ubud I never thought that being by the sea would be that big of a deal for me since I am more a lover of countryside, vast green pastures and vibrantly coloured flowers but having the best of both worlds here really was a treat. And I really couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d been before that was quite like it.

When we arrived at the beach we were left simply astounded at what we saw before us.

“Honeymooners Santorini” had nothing on this sunset and I had been pretty impressed with Santorini, but this, well this was just off the chart!

The colours of the sunset were like an exploding rainbow, with the primary colours of blue and red on the scene aswell as purples, oranges, pinks underlit by a luminous gold and yellow sky. I honestly was in shock by the magnificent beauty of the sky. And I could see that many other people were too. People began to gather. It was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen in my life, brought together by a culmination of a setting sun and underlit by the fluffy white clouds. Devastatingly romantic. Of course I made an exception and took LOTS of pics for this one!

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Sunset on Echo Beach

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The view from our hotel

Tanah Lot

We haven’t done many touristy things since being in Canggu because we haven’t really felt that inclined to. Being in Ubud gave us access to the “real Bali” which provided us with a taste and feel of living there. Without having to seek them out we got to see the temples, and the beautiful, dramatic landscapes that Ubud was famous for. The sheer abundance of temples on offer on a casual walk down the road meant that you really didn’t need to bother visiting one, but in Canggu, religion and temples was a lot more understated.

Tanah Lot was considered to be one of Bali’s most sacred sites. Essentially a Hindu temple in the middle of the sea, Tanah Lot, which means “Land in the Sea”  was supposedly so sacred that people from all of the world regularly done pilgrimages there. To access it you had to cross a group of large rock formations when the tide was low but once there you were treated to a view of an old temple dating back to the 16th century that provided stunning sunset views and a dramatic panorama of the surrounding coastline that stretched for miles.

To enter the temple you had to dress conservatively – women had to wear a sarong covering their arms, shoulders, knees and below. Also, women (these types of things are always directed at women aren’t they?!) were forbidden from entering if they were pregnant or menstruating. So that was me out then! But the curse of the period was a personal thing, known by me alone, how could they possibly know if I was on my period or not?

It was simple: they could not.

So, disrespectful though it may have been, I thought that it would be far more disrespectful if I didn’t bother going at all or completely ignored their dress code then not enter because I had the misfortune of being in my time of the month!

So I put on a sarong and off we went. The weather was glorious and the ride pleasant. It was only about a 30 minute ride away so we got there on the bike in no time. When we arrived we expected to see lots of signage giving us directions to the temple and general information about the site but it just seemed to be one huge barren area that was poorly signed and it looked very disorganised and rundown. We had to pay to get in and the lady at the kiosk didn’t seem to be particularly concerned with what we were wearing and already I could see plenty of other “Westerners” and others wearing casual shorts exposing their knees and more. Meanwhile I was sitting there in full garb sweating like there was no tomorrow! In addition we weren’t given any pamphlets or any directions as to where this temple was.

We began to get annoyed as we couldn’t find any signs for parking or anything. Also, we were beginning to understand why the woman at the kiosk seemingly couldn’t care what people were wearing to visit the temple, as we were soon starting to see that the entire area was teaming with cheap and nasty looking market stalls selling cheap and nasty looking tat. There were loads of them! I found it really hard to believe that here they were marketing this as some kind of sacred site when they are allowing cheap clothing sellers onto the site to sell their nasty wears. And there was nothing of quality – it was all just bargain basement t-shirts and print dresses that had absolutely nothing to do with Tanah Lot or anything within it. They had succeeded in cheapening their own offering, and it was very disappointing to see.

We hoped and prayed that this wasn’t a sign of things to come!

After parking we stumbled our way around the huge, dusty complex, which was very confusing to say the least with no adequate signage whatsoever, and came out to a clearing where finally we could see this temple. By now there were lots of other tourists in the area (lots with professional photographers following in their wake), taking pictures of the scene before them and as if on cue I too was asked to take a picture with an Asian lady who clearly hadn’t seen a black person before. But this phenomena is pretty normal for me when I travel so I agreed with pleasure.

The temple did indeed look impressive, standing tall and grand in it’s majestic position in the middle of the sea but Josh and I began to wonder just how we would get there as to us it seemed that there was no way to cross – the tide was in. Alas, there was no information as to an alternative way of viewing this famed temple and no information telling us the most appropriate time to view the temple and soon it became abundantly clear that we weren’t going to be able to. It seemed that the entrance was not the only area littered with these “retail” businesses either – there were hawkers everywhere trying desperately to sell their abominable wears and it was starting to get ridiculous. Everywhere we walked we were inundated with offers from various people trying to sell us things that were completely unrelated to the thing we had come there to see.

It was not only disheartening but for me, disappointing. In Ubud, Bali’s Spiritual Centre, it was easy to experience what it was Bali was most known for: their spirituality and wellness traditions but for some reason coming here I was experiencing quite the opposite.

This place wasn’t sacred at all – it was consumerism all the way and for a non religious person like myself, perhaps this shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. If a sight is sacred, then let it remain so. Bali: Respect and uphold your traditions for goodness sake.

On the way outside of the main area where people were gathering on land to watch the temple from afar, we were again surprised to find that Tanah Lot had an entire road dedicated to retail stores selling absolutely anything and everything to unsuspecting tourists who had to pass by. It was in very bad taste. I went into one of them though as they were claiming to have Agarwood for sale, which is a very expensive and very rare Absolute. Infact it was so rare and pricey that I hadn’t even smelt the pure essence yet. Ony dilutions or imitations of the real thing. Since I had picked up some rare and beautiful Lotus Essential Oil in Ubud I felt it was my duty to find out whether I could smell and perhaps even buy some Agarwood here in Tanah Lot. But after smelling it I could tell immediately that it wasn’t pure, and the shop assistants in the shop were trying a little too hard to get me to buy something. It was coming over a little desperate to be honest so in the end I thanked them and went on my way without the essences.

The next shop I walked into was another branch for a women’s clothes shop that I had remembered seeing in Ubud but hadn’t had the chance to go into. The clothes there had a distinctly bohemian feel with beautiful hand embroidery and jewelled flourishes that gave the summery, floaty dresses a bit of glamorous sparkle.

We were met at the door by a middle aged Indonesian woman who greeted us into the air conditioned, well stocked shop to take our time and peruse the aisles of brightly coloured clothes. Already, without even looking through the racks I could clearly see that there was at least 3 frocks that should belong to me. Considering I had already identified this shop in Ubud as being somewhere that I wished to shop it was pretty obvious to me that I was going to find something here that I would love. However Josh did not agree with this shopping spree, particularly since he was already peed off about wasting an afternoon in the grossly underwhelming tourist trap that was Tanah Lot. In theory I was in agreement with him, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to be going back to Ubud anytime soon so the chances of me being able to go to the shop again were slim to none.

No, this was the time to purchase some wares!

I tried on about 6 different outfits and chose 2 but noticed that one of them had a stain on it so we told the shop owner that we would take it provided she give us some money off. This is standard practice in any clothes shop I’ve ever gone to and these dresses were not cheap. Neither of us anticipated that we would essentially have to argue with this woman to tell her that we qualified for a discount because the clothes she was selling as new were grubby. Not only that but the table where the till was situated had one of their traditional basket of Balinese flower offerings on it along with other food items including bars of chocolates and biscuits which we had regularly seen stray dogs eating when they came across it on their travels. Because there was food in this basket it had attracted flies. Lots and lots of flies both big and small and they were literally swarming the thing. It was DISGUSTING.

How this woman could sit there whilst flies were swarming her customers and her face while she is trying to sell boutique clothing is beyond me! How she could bare standing there whilst flies were swarming the place was beyond me. It was pure nastiness. Clearly this thing had been sitting on her desk for a very long time for it to have attracted so many of them but more importantly, this feisty woman was trying to tell us to WASH THE DRESS she was trying to sell to us rather then give us a discount! AND to make matters worse, the friendly and helpful attitude that she had employed earlier had now gone and was replaced with a stank face while she repeating the request for us to wash this garment without acknowledging that she was trying to sell us dirty wares like a robot.  Moreover, she didn’t even try to give us a reason as to why she was unable to give us a discount and wouldn’t answer our question as to why she was selling dirty clothes in the firstplace. The woman was FEISTY I tell you and I could see that Josh’s patience was wearing thin and he was about to blow!

In the end he asked me whether I still wanted the dress and I said yes, because of course I did but when we pondered on it later we both agreed that out of principle we both should have done the right thing and walked out without it.

As we were leaving the miserable place that was Tanah Lot I told Josh that I needed to go to the toilet so before we walked out of the exit I went towards the toilet sign which had the word MANDI and price 6,000 rupiah written on it and another word with the price 3,000 rupiah written on it. Unsurprisingly as with everything in this bloody place, they wanted money for the pleasure of going to the toilet but I never quite understood what exactly “Mandi” meant. The old lady who was guarding the entrance to the toilets said to Josh and I:

“If you want pee pee, 3,000 rupiah”

“If you want doo doo, 6, 000 rupiah”

Yes, MANDI meant DOO DOO in Indonesian and if you needed to do one then you would have to pay this woman 6,000 rupiah to do it! How they could possibly know what you done once you were in there I did not know but I wasn’t even going to bother trying to find out. I certainly had no intention of telling this woman my toilet plans or any other.

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Merah Puriah

We went to this restaurant in Petitenget and had a wonderful evening. The decor in this place was stunning and the food was great. The appetiser they gave us was particuarly memorable – they said it was a fish soup but it tasted far more amazing then that!

The Jamiroquai Concert

Back in March I had purchased some tickets for the Jamiroquai concert that was due to happen in June. The tickets were EXTREMELY difficult to get ahold of and infact on the first attempt of getting some tickets they completely sold out and had to release additional dates because of the overwhelming demand. Both myself, my 3 brothers and sister was brought up listening to Jamiroquai and none of us had seen him perform live before so this concert was a pretty big deal for us. In the end I managed to get 3 tickets: 1 for myself, one for my brother and 1 for my sister. My youngest brother already had tickets for himself and his girlfriend. But before the concert had arrived I received an email from AXS the company who I purchased the tickets from notifiying me that the concert had been rescheduled until December as Jay Kay had suddenly become ill. Now knowing what I do about his habitual drug habit I was immediately suspicious but when I did further investigation it did indeed appear that the man was ill in hospital with back problems. I checked the new date of the concert and was horrified to find that it fell on a date that I could not do because I would be here, in Bali, then.

So I contacted AXS and requested a refund. There was nobody else I knew who was keen on paying £60 to pay Jamiroquai so it made sense. AXS processed my refund and told me to just destroy the ticket I had got a refund for as it would no longer be valid. So I forwarded on the original tickets to my brother and sister who would still be going. Since they didn’t issue me with any new tickets these tickets were clearly still valid but just to be sure I also sent the email from AXS confirming the cancellation of my ticket.

9 months later and the day of the concert came around. Being in Bali I was none the wiser about the concert and had already gotten over the fact that I would no longer be able to attend it, I was just happy that at least my brothers and sister would be able to experience what could possibly be his last concert ever (if he persisted in his druggery exploits). The following morning I looked at my phone to see multiple missed voice calls and Facetimes from my brother, sister and Mum who had been desperately trying to get hold of me as my brother had been refused entry to the concert.

Frantically and with an overwhelming sense of guilt as I hadn’t heard the phone (I was 8 hours ahead so they had been calling me at 3:30 am in the morning) I opened my messages to find the horrific situation reveal itself before me. My brother didn’t get in. He was denied entrance because I, as the named person on the ticket, wasn’t there. But how could I possibly be there when I wasn’t in the country I fumed!

I had already provided proof of my refund so why were they harassing my brother when he had a perfectly valid ticket?! I was absolutely SEETHING. I was so angry that I found it very hard to formulate the words to adequately convey to Josh how furious I was. How dare they?! I fumed. My poor brother!! I felt utterly awful. He had waited 9 months to see Jamiroquai, almost an entire year, paid £60 for the pleasure AND the date had been rescheduled. How could he have possibly been happy about this? I could just imagine his shock as he presented them with tickets but was still told that he wasn’t getting in. I felt sick to my stomach at the thought. I was powerless to change the current situation but I was determined to at least get his money back. I contacted AXS and a feisty woman called Agnes who was supposedly their senior adviser responded saying that “unfortunately she was unable to help”. What does she mean she is unable to help? – Of COURSE she can help – she can give me my fucking money back!!

This duncebreed woman was basically trying to tell me to contact the O2 but as far as I was concerned it had nothing to do with the O2 since they couldn’t process refunds on their behalf. She clearly thought I was stupid. I purchased 3 tickets from AXS and got a refund for one of them but the remaining tickets essentially became null and void as soon as I done that as they wouldn’t let the other ticket holders enter because I wasn’t present! Since it was impossible for me to be present as I was out of the country I failed to see how any of this could have been avoided by us in any way and I was most certainly not going to let them just get away with it!!

My brother had been left embarrassed by the whole episode and there was absolutely no excuse for it. He had the PDF of the tickets therefore they should have let him in. End of. The tickets make absolutely no mention of the fact that the named person on the ticket needed to be present in order to validate the tickets and their idea of calling me when I was 8 hours ahead was ridiculous. I had not been informed by AXS that there might be an issue when I refunded my ticket and if there was going to be one then they should have changed the names on the tickets to my brothers name.

No, I was going to WAR with these people. After weeks of back and fourth emailing this abominable Agnes woman I haven’t got much further. She has a strategy of not answering questions, being sugary sweet with her responses (which could be conveyed as sarcasm), taking absolutely no responsibility and trying to pass the buck over to the O2. She hasn’t bothered to give me a reason as to why I’m not due a refund. I’m sure it was an overly excited doorman at the O2 who blocked my brother from entering but since I didn’t purchase my tickets from there I fail to see how they can help.

Abominable Agnes has got me so mad with her non responses that I have had no choice but to demand the email address of her manager. Furthermore I am also in talks with the O2 to admit their fault in all this and additionally I am going to complain about abominable Agnes to an independant complaints company for AXS. Kind of like the Ombudsman.

If someone doesn’t apologise and pay up soon all hell’s going to break loose because I’m not having it!!!

In one more week we’ll be gone from this wonderful paradise which we have spent such wonderful, memorable moments.

Legian Beach

We decided that we would drive down to Legian Beach as we had never been to that beach before and it was supposedly one of the most picturesque of the Balinese beaches. Down at Echo beach where we were, the sand was dark, in some places even black due the volcanic ash that was naturally a part of Indonesia. Did you know that they have 76 active volcanoes?! They have more active volcanoes then any other country in the world!

When we got to the beach we parked up and walked down to a very wide and sandy stretch of beach where we were immediately approached by a man asking us if we wanted a sunbed. We said we did and chose two close to the shore. The beach was massive and clearly well prepared to accomodating thousands of tourists but due to the volcano unfortunately there weren’t thousands there. I really felt sorry for them. This must be excruciatingly bad for some of these business owners and considering how calm and sunny it was it was hard to contemplate that people would be scared to come here. Alas, for now, this was Bali’s reality and as we had never been before, it was no different to us anyway.

The bed, though a little well worn was actually REALLY comfortable. It was so thick it was almost like a mattress! The beach itself however left alot to be desired. If this was one of the best beaches in Bali then I was seriously underwhelmed. Yes the sand was lighter then at Echo beach but it still wasn’t white. It was like a dirty brown. Hardly picture postcard perfect. And of course you still couldn’t swim, it was far too rough here. But it was infact the sea itself that was the problem. It was spewing out all kinds of rubbish onto the beach and there was literally a TRACTOR on the beach going around clearing it all up. It was a mammoth task. The beach was positively filthy, with everything from seaweed, tree bark, discarded clothes and lots and lots of articles of plastic strewn about the place. Obviously it was coming from the sea and being washed up here but I was astonished by the scale of it.

When I went for a dip hoping that I could at least get to splash some water on my overheated body I literally couldn’t go in such was the level of filth that I was seeing before me. The water was brown and there were unidentified objects floating about the sea that I didn’t want touching my bare skin. In addition, because there was so much plastic in the water I knew that I would probably freak out and mistake a floating bottle for a floating box jellyfish and that would never do. We fell out of love with that beach after that. Even though our beach had black sand the water was MUCH cleaner, and there was much less hawking going on- we literally couldn’t relax for touts trying to sell us their cheap and nasty wares on this beach. One woman even started picking at my toe nails such was her desire to paint my nails. Funny thing was her feet were horrendous – crusty with uneven nails. Not a good selling strategy if you ask me.

No, our beach was much better. It was FAR less touristy, with absolutely no hawkers whatsoever, the sand was strangely beautiful, with luxurious black sand with bits of silver shimmering in it, and aside from the occasional natural debris that swept onto beaches naturally, there was nothing nasty floating about in it. Plus, our favourite beach club La Brisa and all of the really good surfers were down here!

Som Chai 

Bali is fast becoming the foodie capital of the world and I’m not in the least bit surprised. We have had so many great meals here and been to some utterly stunning restaurants that rival many that we have frequented in the UK. We passed Som Chai on the bike on our way home from the beach. We didn’t know what it was but it immediately caught BOTH of our eyes when we passed it and we were wondering what it was. Mysterious and dark the only thing we could see were the lit up words Som Chai but even that was done well enough to get our attention.

When we got home we were looking for somewhere to go for dinner when Josh came across a Thai restaurant that had been highly rated on The Bali Bible. He didn’t know at the time that it was the same restaurant that we had been ogling earlier that day but when he told me the name of it I knew it was the same place immediately. I don’t believe in fate but this was a fate of some kind.

When we arrived at the restaurant a huge iron door opened without us even touching it to open into a devastatingly dark and sumptuous room with luxurious furnishings, including even a swing and mood lighting throughout. Then we were taken for a walk through this area which I had assumed was the restaurant (it turned out to be a bar and a very nice bar it was too!) through another absolutely HUGE gold door, which again opened by someone automatically operating it from the other side into the restaurant where both of us almost dropped our jars in amazement. It was AMAZING. Beautiful lantern like lampshades swung delicately from the highest ceiling in a restaurant I think I’d ever seen. It was also very dark and seductive, with a waterfall and pond providing the simple, magical sounds of nature.

Rather then giving us a normal wooden chair at a table I could see that ALL of the chairs in this illustrious restaurant were actually sofa’s.  One seaters and two seater sofa’s in luxurious velvet fabrics. These people weren’t here for games. Comfort was clearly their number 1 priority.  I also really appreciated the pearlescent table mat that was before me. It’s the little details that make all the difference and that done it for me. That and the music which to this day I would say was the best compilation of music I have ever heard in a restaurant. There have been alot of firsts for this trip but the musical consistency has been the most surprising of all. These tunes were SERIOUS. I began to Shazam them because they were so good but then decided against it since I realised that we were basically in a fine dining restaurant. It was not appropriate to Shazam in a fine dining establishment, but honestly I had never had to use it in such a place before. These people were playing Robert Glasper for goodness sake!

First we ordered some cocktails – I had one called Siem Julip, which sounded very sophisticated. It was a combination of honey, nutmeg, rum and other delights and I was curious to see how it might taste and was left surprised by the freshness, the strength of the alcohol (it was VERY strong), and the complex yet tantalising flavours. Josh was suitably impressed with his so I knew that this place was going to be a winner.

Well when the food arrived it was a winner, and coupled with the cocktail which I decided was my best yet, I was absolutely loving the place. The food was AMAZING. The drinks were amazing and the decor was amazing. What wasn’t to like?

Turns out for me and Josh: nothing. We loved the place and thus Som Chai has made it’s way to our top recommendations list, where it sits in it’s rightful place.

INSTA FOOLS

There has been a strange phenomena circling the internet lately and that is IDIOTS (and usually women afterall as they are the most vein/insecure), who have gone to the exclusion zone near Mount Agung and taken pictures of their scantily clad bodies striking various poses with the steaming mountain in the background. I have a few problems with this. Partly, haven’t you got anything better to do is a question I would LOVE to have an answer to. And then there’s the issue of them being so up their own asses that they would think it’s okay (or more likely not bother thinking at all), to make a mockery of people who had lost loved ones in the last big volcano explosion that killed literally hundreds of people OR the ones who were currently displaced because of it, losing their homes and livelihoods. You would think that that would override their instafoolishness, but no.

Unfortunately, the rise of selfies has in many ways been the worst thing to happen to civilisation as suddenly it has bred a different, less self aware, more selfish and far more self absorbed and hideously vein type of person. All they want to do is receive “likes” on their Instagram pages for pathetically staged photo’s, mocking other people and cultures shamelessly in pure ignorance and who they haven’t cared to help or care the slightest about in the process. I find it utterly abhorrent.

The Island of the God’s – Week 3

The Island of the God’s – Week 3

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Unbelievably, we’ve been in Bali for 3 weeks already!

We have one more week here in Ubud before we move to our new home in Seminyak.

Time is fast running out, so after some consideration we have made the decision to forgo our visit to the Gilli islands in favour of doing some other things in Ubud before we leave to maximise our time here, but we haven’t done too badly if I do say so myself! 3 weeks has given us a real taste of what Bali has to offer and we continue to find new and exciting things on a daily basis.

The creatures that reside here are a continual terror – from the militant flies that come out every breakfast without fail to terrorise us for our pancakes and fresh honey, to the caterpillars who surely are too hideous to be turning into any form of butterfly, to the rabid stray dogs who amble down the road with their flea bitten selves. These dogs are not hungry in the slightest – they are well fed, eating the literally thousands of offerings to the Gods that the Indonesian people leave littered on the roadside.

I respect their religious traditions but I really do wonder what on earth they think is going to happen if they leave flowers, plants and food parcels on the pavements. Of course the dogs are going to eat them – not the Gods, the dogs. I have seen bigger dragonfly’s and cicada’s that I have ever seen in my life here, not to mention frogs, cockroaches (so far thankfully only 2), centipedes, mosquitoes, gecko’s, spiders (lots of jumping ones, lots!), rats, beetles and ants (huge ones). This abundance of life is fascinating when they are not trying to board me. The spider I can take so long as it doesn’t jump on me. The caterpillar is fine so long as it doesn’t crawl on me. The fly acceptable so long as it doesn’t buzz near me. Unfortunately, thus far I haven’t been so lucky.

This abundance of nature means that I come in contact with them on a regular basis. Thankfully the bristly contraption that the owner of our villa put on the bottom of our door works well but that doesn’t stop the beasts from entering when our room is cleaned each day.

Since we have been living here we have seen probably only 2 other individuals in the “Village” and even that has only been for a very short period of time. It would appear we are here all alone – at breakfast we see no one else, in the pool not a soul and we have never seen anyone else when we return from one of our allday trips in the evening.

We haven’t heard anyone, we haven’t seen anyone. In theory this should be a good thing, and in many ways it is but it does mean that we have the entire team of staff doting over us and they are already overstaffed here in my humble opinion.

Does it really take 4 people to make our breakfast? –  afterall we have the same breakfast everyday: Pancakes, omelette, bali coffee, honey, yoghurt and fresh fruit. Does it really require 4 people to make it? For 2 people? Alas, it remains as quiet and private in these villas as when we first arrived and since the gardens are continually maintained, just as beautiful.

We are clocking up some serious miles on this scooter of ours. Everywhere we go we go via bike – infact I haven’t stepped foot in a taxi, a car or an Uber since arriving here apart from that day when Aunty Jac came up to visit.

Karsa Spa

We have our treatments today at the spa that we happened upon on our travels to Campuhan Ridge Walk and I cannot bloody wait! It means that not only do I get 2 hours of extreme pamperation but I also get the pleasure of walking through those beautiful green fields yet again. The beauty of this walk is well renowned – and the fact that it is literally walking distance from the middle of Ubud town is a bonus.

Even today there are lots of tourists here taking pictures of the surrounding hills and jungle as it isn’t difficult to take amazing pictures here, infact its almost a guarantee.

When we arrive at the spa we are immediately given a refreshing cup of traditional Balinese tea before being taken down to our treatment room that is located down a secret passageway within the tropical gardens. On the way we pass lily ponds, exotic, sweetly fragrant flowers, vast green fields, plants, trees, stone sculptures and water fountains. It is a garden of plentiful and natural abundance. We arrive at a huge wooden door that is buried within ivy. Upon opening the secret walled garden room we are greeted again with our very own water fountain, fresh flowers, plants and the sounds of roosters and cicada’s in the background. A huge sunken tub decorated with flowers lays at the bottom of two inviting treatment beds ready for us.

I have gone for the most expensive treatment that they offer: a 2 hour massage, body scrub and flower bath. I thought it would be stupid not to considering all of the treatments here are obscenely cheap, and seeing how beautiful this private space is where we will be having our treatments makes me realise just how much good value we are getting.

The massage is wonderful. I am feeling thoroughly relaxed and at peace when she begins exfoliating my body with a beautiful smelling homemade body scrub, and after she is finished doing that I lay back whilst she slathers on a thick and creamy body lotion no doubt for the purpose of letting it sink deep into my tissue layers before she leaves me to indulge in my 30 minute long flower bath in the middle of this tropical oasis.

In it they have put literally hundreds of pink and lilac rose petals and frangipani and  left a pot of fresh ginger tea to sip whilst I luxuriate. My bath smells glorious and my skin is drinking up all of the extra attention with pleasure.

Afterwards Josh and I go back to reception where we are offered yet more tea (which is hot and delicious) before paying up and leaving. I noticed that they also had some handmade beauty products for sale such as soap, body lotion and essential oils so of course I couldn’t leave without purchasing some. In the end I got myself some bottles of Jasmine and Lotus Essential Oils, which I have literally never had the pleasure to smell until now. Since we have an oil burner in our villa I have been using the oils to provide an extra burst of exotic-ness to our exotic surroundings.

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The entrance to Karsa Spa 

I survived an Earthquake

No, I’m not joking, I really did. I was in a deep, dreamless sleep when I heard (and felt) a rumble, the building shook and I awoke immediately to ponder whether it was the impending volcano Agung erupting or an earthquake but after considering how much the building shook and knowing that Indonesia has earthquakes on a regular basis I immediately realised that we’d had an earthquake. Josh was fast asleep at the time so of course I woke him. His response when I asked him whether he realised that we’d just had an earthquake was comical – he said he had probably just moved in the bed!

And then he just rolled over and went back asleep when all I could think about was our survival and how I could ensure it. I reasoned that if we were buried alive within the soil that would at least be better than being buried underneath concrete – the benefit of living in the countryside and not in the middle of the city I guess. I imagined that if I heard that noise again I would jump up, get our dressing gowns to cover our naked bodies and collect a couple of bottles of water to sustain us whilst we waited to be rescued in the undergrowth. But of course it didn’t come to that or else I wouldn’t be writing right now! lol

Hanging Gardens of Bali

As I had established, these people were a little up their asses but I suppose it was for good reason. They had managed to secure one of Indonesia’s finest and most famous architects Popo Danes to build one of the world’s most beautiful spa hotels here in Bali. Tripadvisor quoted it as having “the world’s most beautiful swimming pool”. High praise indeed.

When I first saw Hanging Gardens I knew that somehow, someway I needed to get there. To experience it’s most beautiful swimming pool yes, but also because it was located in one of the most unique and inaccessible locations you could think of – right in the middle of a dense jungle. Unlike Pumpkin Village, which was located in a rural area that had jungle surrounding it, Hanging Gardens, like it’s namesake, was at the highest point, in the middle of the jungle so that when viewed from above it looked as if it was somehow suspended in the sky with miles and miles of dense jungle surrounding it.

This place was designed by Popo Danes to have maximum effect and be at one, and in complete harmony with the jungle it was within. This combination of ultimate luxury and nature was something that I decided that I just had to experience. But again, like alot of my other selected destinations, this was definitely one for the Honeymooners. The cost of the spa treatments alone told you that, not to mention the exclusivity of the location. But I didn’t care – I was prepared to pay for this once in a lifetime experience in the middle of the Balinese jungle so I emailed to enquire about us getting a couples spa day before receiving an email back from the Hanging Gardens booking team subtly trying to “suggest” we go for the most expensive packages they had on offer.

After a few attempts by them of “suggesting” their exorbitantly priced treatments we stuck to our guns, booked the treatments we wanted to have and then told them we would be coming and we wanted to use the swimming pool too!

Hanging Gardens was a 7 star establishment, which for Bali was probably one of the only of it’s kind. I well understood it’s uniqueness, but at the end of the day treatments of any kind in a country as poor as this can never be equal to the price of treatments in my native UK. It is completely obscene to suggest otherwise, and of course I know they are advertising these “romance packages” mainly to honeymooners but that should not exclude other luxury seekers such as ourselves, from participating in their exorbitantly priced offerings. Somebody at Hanging Gardens is milking it, and I’m almost certain it’s not an Indonesian.

These days, we were getting about exclusively by our scooter. It was a far cry from the days of Uber, taxi’s and other means of travel, but it meant that we turned up at this 7 star spa hotel in our bike clothes which was probably another thing they were not used to seeing in this ultra secretive location. Alas, we don’t do what is expected, we do what feels right.

As I anticipated the place was impressive from the off. The foyer, vast and airy with the typical open sides that I had come to expect from traditional Balinese architecture, was furnished with elegant dark wooden furniture and unique statement pieces of artwork and impressive floral displays. We were offered cold towell’s and a refreshing cold drink as we awaited the entrance of our spa therapist. The foyer provided one of the most picturesque views of the surroundings from its birds eye perch at the top of this magnificent structure with an almost vertical drop below. To get down you had to take a cable car, which meandered through the trees at a deliberately slow speed to give you a real feel for the lush jungle environment you were entering. It felt magical.

Upon arriving at the spa a couple of floors down we were greeted again by a team of beautifully dressed therapists with immaculate makeup but initially there didn’t appear to be anyone else apart from staff at the hotel. Of course we couldn’t be the only ones at this hotel we mused, but with these prices I’m sure we will only be one of a few!

After speaking to our therapist she confirmed that it was indeed mostly honeymooners at this hotel, that and very rich individuals who could afford to drop a few grand whenever it took their fancy. Also she told us, they had the privilege of seeing wild monkeys swinging in the surrounding trees. This was the benefit of the location they had. What an awe inspiring thing it must be to be that close to monkeys in their natural habitat going about their business! I thought.

After yet another cold towell and refreshing drink she and her colleague take Josh and I to a private room with a direct open view of the jungle where we will be having our treatments. The room is huge and beautifully appointed but it is no Karsa Spa. The experience of being outside, with the sights and sounds of nature, in the midst of beautiful tropical gardens and lily ponds, with the warm breeze kissing my skin, the smell of fresh flowers filling my nose and the sound of a waterfall falling gently in the background is second to none. If I had felt like I was in a Timotei ad in my bathroom before, visiting Karsa Spa had made me feel even more Timotei/Herbal Essences inspired. It was simply wonderful.

Now this was a luxury of it’s own – the room was huge and it had a seperate bathroom with luxurious toiletries and another big stone bath with an interesting pebble feature trimming the rim plus one of the most well made and comfortable dressing gowns I’d ever put on, but it was still no Karsa Spa. It was too designed. And though I loved the sweet touch of having it partially open to the jungle, it still wasn’t the same as being in it. And don’t forget I was paying more then quadruple the price for less time and less treatment. Saying that though, the massage was fabulous. My masseuse clearly knew what she was doing and when she found a knot in my back (as I was astounded to find existed!), she worked it out completely until it was no more. Before our treatments Josh and I also had a foot bath each before our therapists got us to lay on our respective beds whilst they placed a warming towell on our backs and instructed us to do breathing techniques before they started our massages. The fact that I had so many knots in my back meant that the other massages I had received had not removed them at all – just disguised them. So perhaps you do get what you pay for!

After my massage, I was invited to get into my bath that had been specially drawn for me.

What do Frangipani, Milk, Honey, Ginger and Vanilla all have in common?

They were all in my bath. At Hanging Gardens I had chosen to have a Milk, Honey and Vanilla bath. Like Cleopatra who used to bathe herself in milk everyday to keep her skin soft and silky, I decided to do the same! My chosen Essential Oil to have my massage was Frangipani, which was a sweetly scented flower that was abundant in Bali that reminded me a little of Ylang Ylang in it’s odour profile. And they served me fresh Ginger tea. The smells that was being conjured up in my bath that day was most worthy of a new perfume creation! Perhaps it could be called Bali Bath. Whaddya think? 🙂

After our treatments (and of course Josh invited himself into my luxurious bath too!) we went back upstairs via cable car to experience the “world’s most beautiful swimming pool” that we kept on hearing about. Black tiled, with a circular shape that jutted far out into the jungle, this infinity pool was multi tiered with a waterfall that cascades dramatically over the side into the even larger pool below. Dramatic it is, and very very picture worthy. The whole pool area is surrounded by jungle and in the distance there is a temple, so far in the distance that a mist partially covers it. I’m sure this is the very reason why they chose this location to build Hanging Gardens, because it does feel almost unreal in it’s contradiction to it’s surroundings, but yet in harmony with it.

We sample the delights of the pool, which to our surprise actually has a reasonable amount of people in and around it. It is refreshing to be in but there are strategically placed platforms in the pool which you can hardly see because the tiles are so dark, which makes it hard to swim. We soon realise that this pool is for posing in. The platforms are for posing on. That is all.

We have a light lunch at Hanging Gardens before the weather starts to change from being reasonably overcast to very overcast and so we decide to leave as we have a long drive back. The benefit of travelling by bike is that you always get the wind so I was delighted when I could smell wafts of Ginger, Vanilla, Frangipani, Milk and Honey all the way home.

Since we were pretty much the only ones staying at Pumpkin Village we only had jacuzzi access twice a week. I had no idea how they heated up but it clearly was a bit of a struggle for them hence why they only made it available a few times a week but tonight was jacuzzi night so when we got back home we got changed into our swim wear so that we could take full advantage of it!

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Hanging Gardens of Bali 

Canggu Adventures 

We drove down to Canggu to visit Aunty Jac and Uncle Dennis today. After they had come up to visit us last week we agreed to return the favour and it would also be good for us to get a feel for where we’d be going next since the next stop in our travels was Seminyak which was close to where they were staying. We left out early as we knew that we’d have to leave earlier then we would normally have liked because of the distance and the fact that it got dark early. It took us a little longer then we thought it would to get there as the tire on our bike was actually a little flat and we had to find somewhere to pump it up but eventually we got there.

The drive down turned from being really green and rural with not much people to more people, lots of traffic, petrol fumes and concrete. Since we’d been in Ubud for almost a month the contrast was quite dramatic but then the concrete suddenly opened up to green rice fields, surf shops, artisan coffee shops and Indonesian warungs (local restaurants). The mixture of old and new was strange to see but somehow it really worked! This was undoubtedly where the “cool” people resided, and it was going to be our next stop! Lots and lots of boutique restaurants, hotels, shops, spa’s you name it, they had it here – infact they perhaps had too much – my eyes didn’t know where to look there was so much cool shit to look at!

Rabid dogs were here too but there seemed to be less of them. When we arrived at Aunty Jac’s hotel The Haven Suites we were greeted by an enormous, uber stylish hotel right on the beachfront that boasted a huge swimming pool and cool greenery effects hanging at strategically placed spots around the hotel. With lots of one of a kind local wood furnishings they had effectively brought the things that make Indonesia beautiful – it’s nature, within a formal hotel setting. Their suite, which directly overlooked the pool and beach, was very generously appointed, with a stunning bathroom with a latticed wood mirror feature, a statement bath and beautiful black and white tiled floors. On their balcony, there were 2 very inviting, wooden rocking chairs that were perfect for reading a book on whilst watching the sunset. It was a lovely hotel but then I wouldn’t have expected anything less!

After changing into something more comfortable we went down to the beach via a rather precarious rope and wooden plank river crossing and directly onto the beach. After being in Ubud the feeling of sand in my feet and the salty smell of sea air was very refreshing. Also, despite Canggu being overrun with Australian’s (who see Bali in general as their local holiday destination the lucky buzzards!), the beach was almost empty. Unbelievably, the Aussies consider the exotic delights of Bali (being only 3 hours away from them if they are from Perth), with it’s rich culture, delicious food, fair weather and welcoming , tolerant temperament of it’s peoples to be their playground!

Bali was like their equivalent of Spain! What an absolute blessing. Now I personally cannot stand the Costa Del Sols’, Tenerife’s, Lanzarote’s, Benidorm’s and Mallorca’s of this world. I avoid such destinations like the plague and the individuals that choose to frequent them. Such places are devoid of any culture whatsoever as it has been rinsed out to capacity by the culture hating Brits that only want to speak English, drink beers, wear football t-shirts in the midday sun, and eat pie and chips. They are not interested in the local culture in anyway and infest the places they frequent with their bland food, lobster bodies and limited perspective on the world and the part they play within it. But this was different – Indonesia was a country rich in natural beauty, food and culture – one of the richest I had ever experienced infact. Of course the Aussies would wish to leave their blisteringly hot and barren land to come to this paradise. The people were friendly and welcoming, the weather fair, with beautiful beaches, an abundance of nature and a rich culture that the people were very proud of. It was a no brainer. If I were Australian I’d be moving here too!

The sand just kept getting hotter and hotter and the soles of my feet were beginning to feel hotter then a furnace so I looked to the sea to see whether I could cool myself down in it. I had brought my stinger suit along as I had been reliably informed that the deadly box jellyfish were in these waters but looking at the currents I soon realised that there was no point in me wearing it because the sea was ROUGH. This sea was not for swimming in. It was a surfer’s paradise, not a swimmers one. A glance up at the flags on the beach verify’s what I already know: Red flags. I can’t even see any swimmers brave enough to swim in this but I can see plenty of surfers. The conditions are perfect for surfing here. I kind of already knew this but seeing it confirms it. The current is so strong that even standing in the surf could get you knocked over.

Intense it maybe but that doesn’t stop Josh from having a go though even he has to admit that it is not possible to swim in it – just dive and dunk. No thanks.

Aunty Jac takes us for lunch at a restaurant on the beach called La Laguna.  South American in design, with eccentric, vintage, almost pirate like influences, it sounds weird but it was very original with bags of character. A sprawling restaurant overlooking a lagoon it has an impressive collection of artifacts and antiques, darkened areas, mis matched furniture and ambient lighting. The drinks seemed to be pretty good too.

Aunty Jac ordered a bright magenta coloured cocktail called Purple Night that had Dragonfruit in it that once they got right (i.e added more alcohol) was delicious, and I had a delicious tropical drink with rum that was served in a Coconut. The best thing about the drink apart from it being served in a Coconut with a Bamboo straw was the extremely generous amount of alcohol in it and the size – it was huge!

My lunch however was slightly disappointing. All I ordered was some sourdough bread with avocado, sundried tomatoes, poached egg and feta, which in theory should have tasted fresh and flavoursome, but these people went and put about a ton of salt in the avocado. If there is already feta in the recipe then the avocado hardly needs to be salted aswell. A rookie mistake. It was so salty that I actually couldn’t eat it and Aunty Jac reported the same issue with her meal too. Afterwards we went to Finn’s Beachclub, a popular beach club with a great view of the sea and the surfer’s that frequented it.

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Lunch at La Laguna 

Rather then burn the soles of our feet like last time, I put on the sand shoes that Aunty Jac had had the good sense to bring with her. We passed a few dogs on the way too – some came scarily close to me no doubt trying to whiff me out. It wasn’t clear at first whether these were strays or not but I didn’t want to wait around to find out – their fear sensors were up and a few more seconds with me would have told them without much prompting that I was indeed scared shitless. After some time sunbathing on the beach and then trying not to get knocked over in the surf we retreated to the safety and comfort of their hotel, where we went for a swim in their gigantic pool and I sampled one of their star drinks: Black Mango which was a non alcoholic smoothie, a mixture of Mango and Blackcurrant. Delicious!

But now it was time to leave as it was getting dark and we still had the long ride back to Ubud. My Aunt and Uncle were going to be leaving Bali the following day but they had liked it so much they said they were planning on coming back again next year!

These creatures are doing me in – in some ways I have become accustomed to their presence but in others, I really cannot stand it. I am being inundated with beasts left and right and it’s driving me crazy! It’s easy to say that I should just ignore them but it’s damn near impossible. This is the catch with living in a place such as this. It’s the creatures – there’s so many of them! I really do not think I can deal with it on a longterm basis. Just today I have killed about 15 flying ants that found their way into our room. And as for the caterpillars – well you know, they are numerous! And I have finally found out where else they are entering from – our sunken bath tubs plug hole! I saw two of them emerging from there with my very own eyes. So much for a luxury bath!

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Josh and I on Canggu Beach 

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Dinner at Folk Pool & Gardens 

Bridges

We went out for the day and almost got caught in the rain. So far we have managed to avoid it and today was an exception, but it did mean that we had to stay in the restaurant we were working in for longer then usual whilst we waited for the rain to stop. Afterwards we decided to go and get something to eat for dinner since we didn’t want to go back to our villa only to have to come out again. We had had a big lunch so we weren’t feeling very hungry but we decided to go and eat anyway. I remembered seeing Bridges restaurant on a restaurant guide online and it came highly recommended for the food.

I hadn’t gone into too much detail when I had read about it so I had no idea what type of restaurant it was or what kind of food they served but the food was supposedly good so when I saw it on our travels I suggested we go there. At the time I was wearing a very short pair of shorts that was borderline batty rider so it was with great dismay when I realised that it was a fine dining establishment and it was too late to cancel so down we followed the elegantly dressed lady down a circular stairway into a beautifully lit room with formally dressed tables with white tablecloths placed strategically around a beautiful view of the jungle and “Bridge” like it’s namesake. I felt seriously underdressed. Here were people clearly out for their romantic meal and there I was with my bum cheeks hanging out of door sitting there with Josh wearing an Adidas vest and we’d been out allday so we hadn’t even had a shower. It wasn’t a good look alas the servers didn’t  bat an eyelid at what we were wearing. Had we have been in London there was no way we would have even got in! The food, as expected was really good. Definitely somewhere I would be happy to go again.

It started raining heavily as soon as we got home so we took the advantage of going for a nighttime swim in or pool the rain. The water was warm and the rain just got heavier and heavier. It was utterly delightful!

Monkey Forest

Since we have been in such close proximity to Monkey Forest and have even seen a few monkeys spill out onto the road as we are driving by I don’t personally see the point in paying to go and see them in their habitat but Josh wanted to go and see them so once the weather is sufficiently cloudy enough we make the trip there to see them. We go inside and realise at once that for the monkeys this is monkey paradise – they are essentially free – not locked up in chains, or having to do stupid tricks for the pleasures of duncebreed humans. They have a vast forest of natural habitat that is perfect and safe for them to live and play and they have a continued stream of food. They are never going to go hungry here and the people that come to visit them are told to restrict their boundaries. They are safe here. At Monkey Forest they have approximately 678 macaque monkeys though from what I can tell there’s probably quite a few more then that. There are monkeys of all ages here – lots of cute babies ones too.

They are delightful to watch and the babies are completely adorable. There is one baby monkey in particular that I decide that i’m ready to take home – he’s a small brown one with a tuft of hair similar to a mohawk, and he’s currently trying to rip into the small green banana he has with his teeny little hands. He keeps looking around incase a bigger monkey appears and tries to steal his find, but he is determined to get the fleshy part of this banana and keeps going with intense concentration to break it open, until finally he gives up. It makes me happy, to see monkeys, one of my very favourite animals, along with elephants not just surviving but thriving in their own natural environment without human beings interferring with them or worse: trying to eat them! They look comfortable here, are clearly used to seeing humans, playful, well fed and healthy. Welldone Monkey Forest. As we walk on we see a monkey jump onto a girls backpack (one of them even done it to Josh no doubt looking for water bottles which they love), and as she set about trying to get this clever little monkey off her back he was concentrating on trying to remove the water bottle (which was far bigger then him in size and weight!) out of the pouch on the side of her rucksack. First, he tried to use his teeth to unscrew the lid on the water bottle, all the while a large crowd of people giggling their heads off is gathering. Then when he can’t quite manage to do that he proceeds to try and pull the bottle out of the pouch so that it will smash on the floor. Seconds later he has managed to do just that and drenches the poor woman with her own water in the process! These monkeys are utterly fascinating. Highly intelligent, determined, agile and gentle (you can see how gentle they are and how much they understand just by looking into their eyes), what a blessing it is to be related to such an incredible animal!

We haven’t managed to go to Yoga Barn yet, and another place that has been recommended to us: Komune, a beach club. I’m not sure whether we will get to do either of these things now as Komune in particular is weather dependant and both today and yesterday it has been raining. The weather forecast doesn’t look much better for the coming week either unfortunately and Komune is a long drive down to the coast.  We have a Balinese Dinner Dance booked at Kepitu restaurant on Friday which I’m really excited about. Another thing we have been meaning to do is see some traditional Balinese dancers and this way we can combine the two.

They keep on playing the same tunes at breakfast – traditional Indonesian music that is repetitive and heavily features the xylophone. It’s not that I don’t want to hear their local music, I do but must they continue to rinse the same simpleton tunes time and again? – It is a struggle I tell you.

Apologies for this being so long – I had alot to get out!

Smell you later!

STori X

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Karsa Spa 

Week 1 in paradise

Week 1 in paradise

I’m living in paradise here. I simply don’t know how to describe it any other way.

When we first arrived in Bali I was somewhat bewildered with just how different it was to the UK – now in the throes of arctic like grey and wet misery. I seriously wondered whether I would be okay here.  Would I ever be able to come to terms with the intense level of humidity, the weird creepy crawlies, the strange noises in the middle of the night being omitted from the nearby jungle, and the numerous stray and possibly rabies infected dogs?..

We are staying in a beautiful villa, in a rural part of Ubud amongst the rice paddies. When we chose to come to Bali we knew that we were coming at the beginning of the rainy season so we expected occasional downpours of rain but apart from our very first night so far we have had nothing but sunshine and cloudless blue skies.

Our villa is everything a good holiday accommodation should be – beautiful, comfortable, spacious and clean, and this of course is no coincidence, for when I agreed to do this travelling thing, I told Josh that on no uncertain times would I be staying in shabby accommodations and shabby this is most certainly not.

Set back amongst beautifully manicured tropical gardens, with abundant trees and fragrant flowers surrounding, is a collection of 5 private villa’s, part of an exclusive set of accommodations called Pumpkin Village. Owned by a Korean woman (South not North she assures us!) and her husband, and open for a mere 5 months, she has turned this into a tropical oasis of true peace and tranquility, surrounded by a magnificent abundance of nature.

Our villa, called Indigo, is in a traditional Balinese design, sporting a stunning sun terrace overlooking the lush gardens and water feature, with large vaulted ceilings and tiled floors. The bathroom features a huge stone, sunken bathtub and rain shower in a bathroom that brings the outside in by using all natural materials and having a partially open ceiling amongst natural greenery.

Breakfast is a small but healthy and delicious option of pancakes, natural yoghurt and various tropical fruits and eggs and other things. No meat is served for breakfast here.

At night the outside is alive with the calls of the cicada’s, dragonfly’s, frogs, bats, dogs and goodness knows what else but the most abundant creature here surely must be the caterpillars. At first I didn’t know what on earth these little brown centipede looking things were I kept on seeing. They looked safe enough – just little harmless squiggly looking things who wriggled about on the floor, but when they started entering our villa via the front door (they just crawled right underneath it), I knew that they had to go.

I am not a big fan of creepy crawlies and these were no exception. I understood that technically we were in their territory (aka the jungle), but did they really need to venture into our villa??

On the first day after complaining to the owner about our new roles as caterpillar killers (we had trod on about 10 so far that day), she provided us with some insect spray to kill them with, however though this worked on flying creatures like flies and cockroaches (thankfully we were yet to see any of those yet) and spiders, they did not work on the caterpillar’s and they just kept on coming in unhindered into our room. It was driving me crazy and made my skin crawl everytime I saw them wriggling about on our shiny white tiled floor.

I’m sure that she was quite amused by my obsession with all things creepy and crawlie however I didn’t have a problem with seeing them outside going about their business, I just did not want them crawling on my bed and over my face in the middle of the night.

The Moustache

On the second day, after having a horrifying experience in the middle of the night where Josh and I happened to look over and see a huge black moustache looking thing with literally hundreds of legs crawl right underneath our door and into our villa with a frightful amount of ease we knew that we had to do something drastic.

This beastly thing looked like a super sized centipede, either that or another bloody caterpillar. It was really big and moved so freakishly that even Josh let out an impromptu yell when he saw it and then promptly stomped on it. I do remember the thing being scared of Josh yelling at it as when he did so it stopped dead in it’s tracks (and was dead literally after the fact). After that horrible encounter Josh came up with the brilliant idea of stuffing our spare bath towell’s underneath the door to block the gap that they were coming from. After setting about blocking it with double folded towell’s and then checking it worked for the first 30 minutes I finally had a deep and peaceful sleep.

When we woke up the next morning we assessed the damage and found a few chancer caterpillars crawling around but for the most part it had worked. We had cause for celebration!

During the course of the day we found that a few managed to get through but nothing like it had been before, and the ones who did manage to get through we promptly disposed of.

On day 3 the owner of the villa’s had come up with an even better idea – she affixed a blocker to the bottom of our door (only ours you understand as essentially we were the only ones staying in the complex which I could not understand but was certainly not complaining about!). This blocker was like small bristles that even the smallest of creatures couldn’t penetrate and since she put it on we haven’t seen any caterpillars at all! Hurrah!

We are however living with 2 gecko’s. One who we have called Gordan and another much smaller one, a baby one infact who we have affectionately named Gordan’s son. No idea whether they are even related but there you go. We are happy for them to live here for we hardly ever see them and they are taking care of the spiders and other ad hoc creatures that do somehow manage to find their way in.

Pondering on our creepy crawly killing campaign afterwards, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little bad about all of the ones we’ve killed. Afterall the Indonesian people are a people with an accute respect for nature and the creatures within it. I did wonder what they felt about having all of these Westerners essentially come into their environment and kill what was there before them.

Did I feel a little guilty for that? Sure I did, but I maintain that I can appreciate the abundance and variety of the creatures that live here, and even be in awe of them but what I most certainly cannot deal with is caterpillar’s crawling around my abode. This is my refuge and I cannot be bombarded with creepy crawlie horrors. I am infact repulsed by the very thought of them. So for that reason alone I felt that we had no choice but to dispose of them until we found a better way of dealing with the issue. And thankfully now we had.

We are getting about by scooter here as this is the most effective and popular mode of transport in Bali. There is a little issue of poor street lights, insane traffic, no road safety (like traffic lights or street signs), and stray dogs waltzing into your path but other than that it’s fine. At least it’s faster then taking a car due to the very small roads and congestion, and you can park pretty much anywhere.

We have found lots of great places to eat and coffee shops from which to work from – and there are two places we’ve been particularly impressed with: Clear Cafe and Folk Pool and Gardens.

Clear Cafe was recommended to us by the owner of our villa. Josh and I have been vegetarian for 2 months so we were on the look out for the best places in Bali for vegetarian food and she told us that the food there, a mixture of vegetarian and fish dishes, was good but more than that she said that she thought that we would appreciate the decor. Since she herself obviously has an eye for interior design and ambience based on the high standards of our accommodation, we knew that we could rely on her to give us good advice and so one afternoon we went there to check it out.

When we arrived we entered via an intricately carved round wooden door in the middle of a busy side road.

Greeted by flowers at our feet and a strong scent of incense permeating the air, we were met by a smiling Balinese girl in elaborate traditional dress who after welcoming us in promptly asked us to remove our shoes. There were to be no shoes worn by anyone in this establishment! Even the staff were barefooted. For some reason I was really excited by the thought of walking around barefooted in a restaurant!

We padded through, taking in the beautifully decorated open air restaurant with it’s ambient and lighting, scented with a sensual floral-woody fragrance, a small bridge over which we crossed with carpe swimming underneath, past the tropical, green plant walls and up the stairs with flower blooms scattered all over them. When we made it up with the stairs as I was loving every moment of walking around barefooted and having all of my senses stimulated, I was getting increasingly excited about eating here – especially since they were ethical enough to only be offering vegetarian food.

I had already decided I loved it here and that was before I knew about the in-house spa! Not content with just providing tasty vegetarian food in a laid back and ambient environment, these people had gone one step further and opened up a bloody spa in the restaurant. So one minute you could be eating a vegetarian nasi goreng and the next getting a deep tissue massage and facial in one of the back rooms by one of the resident masseuses. Unbelievable!! I was in awe of this place – what an amazing idea to combine a spa and restaurant, and you simply wouldn’t believe how cheap it was either. Criminally cheap!

Unfortunately, on this occasion we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the delights of Clear and their clean cuisine and luxury spa treatments as they didn’t take cards (just cash) and since we had run out of cash we were unable to eat there but rest assured – we will absolutely be going back and will update you accordingly. Infact Aunty Jac is coming to Ubud in a few days, as she’s here for an extended holiday with my Uncle Dennis so I have decided that we will take them there for lunch!

Folk was a place we stumbled upon when we were looking for somewhere to have a coffee and do some work. Josh is working on his Amazon business and I’m helping with it aswell as doing some writing and taking the opportunity to work on my website etc whilst I’m away.

While we were there we ordered a prawn and lemongrass curry which we were pretty sure would be average but average it was not!

The decor at Folk was cool- wooden, shabby chic, nothing much to rave about but this prawn curry really was something else! Bursting with flavour, languishing in a homemade sauce of indescribable deliciousness, this prawn curry was undoubtedly the best either of us had ever tasted. I could see a sign telling us that they also had a pool and garden but it was far too humid to work for long in the air conditioned building let alone be out in the mid day sun so we didn’t bother checking it out however on one of our nights in town looking for somewhere to go for dinner we happened to pop into Folk again as Josh was going to leave me there for a short while while he went and collected the bike and brought it closer. We were on Monkey Forest Road which was indeed where the monkeys had their forest, and when we had walked past them they had been jumping through the trees and squawking loud enough for me to not want to walk past there again, not to mention the numerous stray dogs that we had to pass on the way down. But before I could even sit down to read the drinks menu a member of staff came up to Josh and I, and told us to follow him – the gardens out back were much nicer for dinner at night he told us. I didn’t know why he singled us out particularly as I could see plenty of other couples sitting in there but I wasn’t going to argue. If he was taking me to a better area then I was all for it!

Well, I can tell you it was a MUCH better area. The ambience alone was well worth it. Tables and chairs had been placed around a huge pool, with day beds on one side and tables with umbrellas on the other side, a large circular bar area and outdoor restaurant seating area with a huge floral display on show and there were deck chairs on a large patch of grass at the back and lounge tables underneath the trees complete with fairy lights and some seriously good music (I even shazamed some it was that good).

The place felt casually magical and the food was on par with what we’d experienced when we had eaten here before. I was really happy and relaxed there. Apparently you could book one of the day beds or the beds beside the pool and the restaurant had different themes each night. We’ll be back!

Back at our villa we were being treated like a king and queen to the point that sometimes it did feel a little uncomfortable. We were staying in a boutique hotel which by their very nature are always more personal and attentive, but we were also in low season and were staying for a whole month which meant we got the whole team of staff looking after us aswell as the use of the facilities to ourselves. We didn’t even see anyone else!

The Timotei Effect

I feel like I’m living in a live ad of Timotei or Herbal Essences shampoo. It’s so beautiful and peaceful here that it is hard to believe that we are not amongst paradise itself. The plants and trees are so abundant and so green, the flowers so vibrant and fragrant, and the sounds of the birds and cicada’s relaxing. Even the birds and butterflies here are superior – fluttering about in a dreamy like motion, and as for the fruits! – well, the mangos, banana’s and pineapple are some of the best I’ve tasted.

The best part of our accommodations aside from the setting itself is definitely our sunken bath. We have had a luxury bath almost every night complete with Rituals Bath Oil curtesy of my sister and citronella candles to keep the beasts away and I can tell you it has been glorious!! I also brought some Rose scented Bath Bombs from Lush with me from England and I am very much looking forward to using them at some point in our time out here. In addition to this we have rainbows in our shower. No, I’m not making it up! – we actually have rainbows. The combination of the sunlight, water and mirrors creates a rainbow every time we shower. It’s beautiful! Now do you believe me when I say we’re living in paradise?

Since there has been alot of development from Westerners, mostly the Aussie’s who are a short plane ride away from Bali, there are lots of notable retail shops, restaurants, yoga establishments and hotels popping up everywhere,and they all make the most of the Balinese sense of nature, beauty and spirituality. We have also had the pleasure of witnessing not 1, not 2, but 3 seperate blessing ceremony’s in the short time that we have been here. They are very religious here (but not in the militant Christianity or Islamic sense of the word). Their religiosity is more an appreciation of nature and the continuation of life which I can respect.

Our villa has already been blessed twice since we have been here – and I’m not talking about the daily housekeeping and impeccable service which has been faultless so far, but literally blessed with the whole staff team coming around with scented incense, flowers and offerings to leave on and around our villa. It both smells and looks beautiful.

I can’t say whether or not I feel that we have been blessed, but thus far, being here has indeed been a blessing.